A growing number of middle class Chinese citizens is drinking imported wines. They also drink more frequently, thus it is not a niche market anymore but a widespread product. Chinese wine consumers are more and more careful and serious about wine, which they choose from either from online or offline shops.
The number of Chinese consumers from the urban upper middle class drink wine at least twice a year, went from 38 million in 2014 to 48 millions in 2016, which is 11% of the adult urban population aged 18–54. If 48 million Chinese drink one glass a week, there is a lot of wine to import (or to produce locally) in 2017.
The audience is also becoming younger over the years. Over 40% of drinkers of imported wine in China are aged 18 to 29. This trend has attracted different wine-producing countries to the growing Chinese market, including Argentina, Chile, Australia, Italy and Spain.
French Wines in China
For years, the market was dominated by French wines. Between 2009 and 2014, French exports of still wine to China surged, gaining 168% in value and 231% by volume. However, exports of Bordeaux to China started to decrease in 2014, following the enactment of new laws by the central government in Beijing against corruption and extravagant spending of officials. Expensive wines and spirits have experienced the results.
The three most famous local producers of Chinese wines are Dynasty, Great Wall and Changyu. 90% of the wine consumed in China is produced locally. However, Chinese wines still have a long way to go to compete with French, Australian, American, Italian or Chilean wines in terms of quality. Their main argument now remains the price and importers don’t want to fight them on this aspect. They still need to find out how they can differentiate.
The latest development is that China-produced is crossing borders. China’s biggest local wine brand, Yantai Changyu Pioneer Wine, has exported its “Noble Dragon” brand wine to Spain. This mix of Cabernet Gernitscht and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes is sold for 10 euros and can be found in supermarkets and restaurants. The Chinese company is also selling to France’s Carrefour SA and to Tesco in the UK.
As we mentioned, the quality of wines produced in China is progressively going up. The French luxury brand Moet Hennessy has set its sights on China, looking to produce a new fine wine in a rural area in the southwest of the country. The full-bodied red wine Ao Yun is grown and bottled in the Adong area of China, on a remote plateau approximately 8,530 ft. above sea level and near the Tibetan border. With only 24,000 bottles produced, each bottle is priced at 300 euros.
Medium-Priced Products Opportunity
In a certain way, the focus has shifted from super-expensive to affordable top quality wine, and that medium-priced wines can take their chance. Anyone offering good quality imported wine at a reasonable price can seek sales to wholesalers, wine bars, hotels, restaurants, wine stores and even supermarkets.
Dutch serial entrepreneur Fons Aaldering took that opportunity and sold 25,000 bottles of Aaldering wine in China in 2014. The company made two important decisions for its market entry in China: opening a sales office in Xiamen and employing Johnna Zeng, a Chinese sales rep that knows about wine.
How to market wine in China ? Go Digital
The wine market in China is growing. Wines that have a good reputation are sold at a good price. In short: Chinese consumers want the lifestyle, and lifestyle comes from overseas. The best decision would then be:
- Brand your wine—invest in marketing.
- Organize wine tastings—make people know your product. Have them try it!
- Product placement may work—it did for French producer Laffite. A product placement campaign has improved its image. Laffite wine is now considered as the best wine for celebration.
- Communicate—make the press write about your product. Invite them to some events related to your business, like wine tasting.
- Think digital—Chinese’s social media are the key. Your customers will need content. They want to know about the history of your company and advice to choose their wine. QR codes are al