How can I sell my wines in China? Part 2

– By Dan Siebers

This is part 2 of 5.

In part 1 of this series, I introduced some general issues producers should consider when entering the China wine market. This time around, I look at consumer trends

All of the comments I make on consumer trends are purely anecdotal and should not be taken as hard facts. These are my personal opinions based on seven years in the China wine market, half of it as a restaurant operator and half as the area sales director (North China) for Summergate Fine Wines.

Some key points:

Consumers often do not buy for taste. “What is the Chinese palate like?” or “What goes good with Chinese food?” are interesting questions, but largely irrelevant to the issue of penetrating the China market. Chinese most often buy for fashion and prestige, not for flavor. If Chinese drank wine for the taste, then semi-sweet whites like Moscato d’Asti would be the most popular type.

Brands that have sought to play to Chinese tastes, particularly in the area of packaging, have failed. For example, an imported wine with a red and gold label and a dragon on it will not do well. If the Chinese believe that a product is “custom made” for them, they won’t trust it.

Most wines are being purchased and consumed in restaurants. Restaurants are essential for entertaining and socializing, as homes are often too small for such purposes.

There‘s a tendency to buy the cheapest (personal use) or most expensive (when entertaining).

Australian and Chilean wine are on the rise. Chile is the fastest growing category, largely due to the efforts of one importer. Australia is the second largest category, and the only one threatening France for top spot. This is likely to do with the relatively easy-to-approach style of Australian wines and also possibly to the fact that Australians and Singaporeans make up a large percentage of foreign restaurant managers in China, which is an advantage for Australian wine only.

Red wines represent 65-80 percent of the market. White wine is often perceived as not being “real” wine. Red is also a lucky color.

On Monday, part 3 in this series: Hard and soft facts about importers

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  1. If the Chinese believe that a product is “custom made” for them, they won’t trust it.

    It’s amazing how many foreign companies introduce themselves to the local market with the hokiest TV commercials laden with cliched traditional Chinese images and values.

  2. Hi Y A Li:

    Thank you for your comments.

    In mature markets, the vast majority of sales (60-85%) are in supermarkets. In China, supermarkets are not the major sector quite yet, but it is quickly on the rise (just my opinion, it is not possible to verify it unless we could have all the sales data of the 20-40 top importers).

  3. Dan has got it right. I am amazed. Although a lot of wine (and fake wine) is consumed in restaurants I read somewhere that 60% of wine sales are by supermarkets. What is the real distribution?

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