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Breaking down SAQ prices

Dear clients,
The past year and a half has not been easy and several sectors of activity have experienced major upheavals. This is particularly the case for maritime transport, subject to exceptional pressures imposing surcharges on its customers, including the SAQ. Therefore, we will carry out a price adjustment on several products on July 18. On average, this increase represents $0.13 per bottle and affects 2,055 products. Rest assured that no effort has been spared to reduce the increases in transportation costs initially imposed on the SAQ and thus limit the effects of the increases demanded by its carriers on retail prices. In a context of rising consumer prices, find out on this page how the SAQ continues to offer you fair, competitive prices that are among the best in Canada.

The SAQ has among the lowest prices in Canada

As an importer, distributor and retailer of over 44,000 products coming from 3,700 suppliers in 82 countries, we negotiate the prices for more than 10,000 products with several hundred producers, suppliers and agents each year. The goal of these negotiations is always to offer fair and competitive prices to customers.

Our teams’ hard work has enabled the SAQ to offer among the best prices all around the liquor boards of Canada since 2018. In fact, most of the products on SAQ shelves are priced lower than anywhere else in North America.

Despite this enviable state of affairs, the issue of product prices at the SAQ resurfaces from time to time in the news. The media, public and customers all legitimately wonder about the price-setting process, the components that make up the price (taxes, markup, dividend paid to the Quebec government, etc.) and the negotiations held with industry stakeholders.

That is why we are providing detailed information to help you understand how the SAQ arrives at fair and competitive prices for the products it sells.


Strict negotiation process

Over the years and particularly since the SAQ’s transformation, we have instituted a strictly managed price negotiation process. Backed by detailed knowledge of the various markets and products, our teams are in regular contact with producers, suppliers and agents here and abroad. That is the only way to ensure we obtain the best possible prices for customers.

Price increases limited to two periods a year

  • Twice a year, in the spring and the fall, producers, suppliers and agents can apply to raise the prices of their products.
  • Requests to increase product prices can be submitted only during these two-week price change request periods.
  • Each of the SAQ’s account managers then enters into discussions with the producer, supplier and/or agent to understand the reasons for the price change request. Typical reasons are labour costs, raw material prices, unfavourable weather and higher taxes and duties.
  • The price change request is studied and discussed internally to be sure the SAQ can justify the price increase. In some cases, a request may be refused due to lack of justification.
  • At the end of the negotiation process, the SAQ either grants or refuses the price change request for the product or products concerned.

Price increases announced in May and November

  • In a spirit of openness, the SAQ publishes – in May and November of each year – the number of products affected by the price increases and the average amount of the increase in various product categories.

Price decreases allowed at any time

  • Note that prices can be lowered at any time.
  • Whenever a request to decrease prices is received, our teams make a priority of adjusting the product’s retail price so customers can begin enjoying lower prices as soon as possible.

Breakdown of the sales price

  • The price you pay for your bottle of wine or spirits has several components.
  • Once again, various factors can affect one or more of these components, causing a change in the product’s retail price.

The following diagram shows the components that make up the retail price for a 750 ml container of wine and spirits.

Imported wine, 750 ml format
(in dollars and percentages)
March 27, 2021

  1. (1) Continuous replenishment products.
  2. (2) The markup covers selling, marketing. distribution and administrative expenses and generates net income.

Local spirits, 750 ml format
(in dollars and percentages)
March 27, 2021

(1) The markup covers selling. marketing, distribution and administrative expenses and generates net income.

All Quebecers benefit from the SAQ

Under the act (pdf, French only) that created the SAQ, the government corporation is required to pay an annual dividend to the Government of Quebec.

All Quebecers benefit from this dividend because it is reinvested in various government programs, including health care and education, and a range of government services.

In each of the last eight years, the SAQ has remitted a dividend of more than a billion dollars to the Quebec government. In fiscal 2020-2021, the amount was $1.219 billion.

Last update: June 9, 2021