LCBO launches effort to help small food and drink businesses hurt by COVID

Who : The LCBO and lg2 for creative, with PHD for media and Craft Public Relations for PR and influencer relations.

What: “#PairItForward,” a social media-led effort to support small food and beverage businesses across Ontario through recommendations for food and drink pairings. It’s one component of the Ontario alcohol retailer’s larger fall campaign, “Together for Ontario.”

When & Where: The campaign officially launched Sept. 14, running through to the holiday season. Creative will run as digital video, social, pre-roll, print, and in-store .

Why: The food and beverage industry has been hit hard by the pandemic. The LCBO, which is deeply embedded within the industry, created the program to encourage Ontarians to consider supporting some of those small businesses.

“While it is always a goal at the LCBO to increase discovery and sales of local products, this initiative is also meant to rally Ontarians to support the local food and beverage industry and help it thrive at a time when the industry needs it most,” said an LCBO spokesperson.

How: The goal is to get people to use the #PairItForward hashtag with recommendations of their own, but the campaign is kicking off with 24 Instagram stories from people running small food and drink businesses across the province.

Each makes their own PairItForward suggestion to create what the LCBO describes as a “chain reaction of support”: a distiller in Bloomfield, for example, recommends a favourite chocolate maker, who recommends an ice cream maker, who recommends a favourite local restaurant. “We all need to do our part to help rebuild Ontario,” says Karen Whitty of 13th Street Winery in St. Catharines in the introductory video.

“#Pairitforward was inspired by the generosity we are seeing from Ontarians to help their neighbours during this unprecedented time,” said Keith Barry, vice-president of strategy at lg2. “We are confident [this initiative] will resonate with and inspire their customers to pair Ontario’s world-class beverage alcohol products with outstanding local food offerings.”

Anything else: “Together for Ontario” includes a virtual tasting series promoting Ontario VQA wines. “The series will offer customers tutored tastings covering themes, pairings and recipes and beverage alcohol trends,” said a release.

And we quote: “Now more than ever, our customers are expressing a keen desire to discover and support local products and producers. #Pairitforward offers them the perfect opportunity to connect to our vibrant industry and empowers them to help it thrive at a time when the industry needs it most.” —Vanda Provato, vice-president, marketing and customer intelligence, LCBO

David Brown