New World wines and Québec products
December 1999. Champagne sales explode across Québec as everyone anxiously awaits the new millennium, fearful of what the infamous Y2K bug will bring.
Which, in the end, was nothing. Not only did our computer systems continue to function, but in fact our technological development experienced explosive growth over the following two decades. In 2000, Facebook didn’t exist; by 2010, it was the most visited site in the world! Sales of sparkling wine continued apace, a sign of Quebecers’ growing passion for wine, as well as of their curiosity and openness to the world. The new millennium began in the spirit of technology and discovery.
At the start of the millennium, there were 341 SAQ stores in the entire province and 6,575 products for sale. In 2020, the network covered 410 stores offering close to 15,700 wines, spirits, and other liqueurs.
New millennium, new openings
Light years away from yesteryear’s fenced-in counters, SAQ stores developed a much friendlier atmosphere that encouraged customers to explore. You could now sample wines, discuss pairings with staff who were better informed, do a little research through interactive terminals, and meet with winemakers. In the 21st century, you don’t just shop for products, you experience them. And there are experiences to suit every taste. In 2001, the first SAQ Dépôt opened its doors in Hull, which had not yet become Gatineau — that municipal amalgamation would follow in 2002. During the same period, a second SAQ Signature opened at the Château Frontenac in Québec City, a spin-off of the successful opening of the Montréal location in 1999.
Taste tags, first presented in 2009, encouraged customers to try other wines based on their taste profile, and it was highly successful. Phrases such as “aromatic and robust” and “fruity and vibrant” became part of our everyday lexicon, as did “liking” social media posts. The advent of smartphones — the iPhone made its appearance in 2007 — changed both our lives and our consumer behaviour. The SAQ opened its first transactional site in 2000, but starting in 2010, its online presence became more pronounced. The launch of a mobile app and development of social media accounts accompanied major investments in content creation, a revamp of its website, an increase in its online product offering, and the launch of the Inspire program.