The Chinese market for Wine (and alcohol) can be described in two words: largeness & dynamicity. Thinking of it in these terms, any sellers would be a little scared of entering mainland China; however, this challenging market can be extremely profitable… Isn’t it a good reason to read this exporting wine to China guide?
The development of the imported wine market
The history of the imported wine market in China began in the early ’80s when foreign companies could sell their products in the country for the first time. Grape wine is not endemic to Chinese culture but it sure has found a way into Chinese middle class households!
The Chinese Wine Industry is principally based on rice wine, but this doesn’t mean the grape version isn’t appreciated by the Chinese; on the contrary, grapes are considered the main ingredient of special wines, those destined for wealthy people.
The demand for wine has rapidly increased since 1990 when Chinese interest in imported products started to grow. During the 90’ such demand grew at such a rapid rate that the quality of products dramatically lowered because the supply wasn’t enough to satisfy it.
Finally, when PRC entered the World Trade Organization in 2001, many new foreign players started importing their goods there, and this event, together with the rise of the middle class’s demand, made the import of wine grow even more rapidly.
Today, the country has one of the highest wine consumption growth rates in the world, which is mainly related to imported grapes wines instead that rice wines. btw, if you are wondering does China produce wine, the answer is yes. Check it out for yourself with this post on ice wine.
Imported Wines & Wine exports during the pandemic
The wine industry is one of those sectors that suffer the most. In fact, while many categories have incredibly restarted the rise from April, the wine imported market didn’t see any light during the first half of 2020.
In short, pretty much the whole world suffered a decrease in production and in wine export to China, especially France which saw a 45% fall, followed by Italy, Spain, and Australia at 30%.
The only country that kept growing in the middle of a disaster was Argentina, with a 590% increase.
But economists are positive, that China is the country that is reemerging better than any other from the crisis. It is esteemed a fast recovery of the wine market in the near future.
What are Chinese tastes in the matter of imported wine?
Foreign products are the top dogs in the country when it comes to grape wine with the middle class that has grown wary of food additives and national standards in the food and beverage productions sector.
Small and large wineries should definitely take advantage of this fact in their communication.
The Rise of sparkling wine in China
Even if the Chinese have always preferred still wine to the sparkling kind, the second is gaining market shares in the last years, it has seen steady growth since 2015 but sparkling wines still account for 90% of the imported wine market.
Are Australian wine exports gaining the favor of the Chinese People?
Australian wines are at the top of the list of the most imported wines in China, followed by France, which has been the favorite wine for years.
Australian wine took the lead in 2019 probably due to two main reasons:
1. the first was the great effort of Australian companies in educating Chinese consumers, an example is the brand Penfold’s
2. China-Australia Free Trade Agreement (CHAFTA) in 2015, thanks to which Australian brands can import product with zero tariffs.
In 2020, the order was shaken once again. China’s General Administration accused Australian wine export companies of violating anti-dumping regulations. This decision can turn the tables and makes it climb off the podium soon.
French Wine: the most famous in the Chinese market
Not even two years ago, France was leading undisturbed with the most famous red wine in China: the Bordeaux. It sounds weird but the Bordeaux red wine is so famous in China that local wines feel foreign in comparison with it.
The reason why Bordeaux has no rivals is that French people have been very good at marketing, they have never sold a wine, they have sold an idea. When a Chinese buys this prestigious wine is like buying a symbol of sophistication. French wines have mostly positioned themselves on the premium market.
However, with Australia (and Chile behind both) striving to gain market share, France has started to change its strategy and no more betting everything on one wine but reinforcing the position of other strong protagonists of its industry, such as white wine, Rosé, and Champagne. Champagne’s imports to China grew by 9.1% from 2018 to 2019.
The Chinese market is witnessing the rapid growth of Chilean Wine
During the last decade, Chilean companies have been able to triple the yearly export of their wines to China thanks to their capacity to change the consideration of Chinese of Chilean wines.
In the beginning, this wine was has a bad reputation, in fact, the Chinese bought it just because of its price; but recently, many Chilean brands have been good to give the Chinese a new reason to buy it, which is the particular fruity flavor.
In 2020, Chile sold 154 million liters of wine to China, three times more than those sold in 2010.
The price of Italian wine doubled in 5 years
In the last five years, Italian wine has doubled its price and the amount of wine sold in China has increased by 10 million liters.
While the higher price indicates the increase of awareness of Italian wine in China, the amount of wine sold to Chinese consumers is not impressive, especially if compared to the production level of the country: more than a quarter of wine in the world.
Spain plans the road to the success with huge potential
Up to now, Spain’s growth has been quite irregular, there have been years with a high level of growth and others of sharp decrease.
A solution seems to have been found, several wineries have had a confrontation to find a unique way to operate, so in 2019 the Chinese and Spanish association was established with the scope of promoting the culture and the sales of Spanish wine in China.
Together we conquer China
A beautiful alliance was born in June 2020. Chile, Argentina, South Africa, New Zealand, and the US together with a Chinese partner named Shanghai’s Grapea & co., created an online marketing campaign that has the objective of letting the Chinese know about their wine.
Free virtual masterclasses and videos about food pairings for wine, history, and winemaking were published on digital platforms like Tiktok, WeChat, and Tmall. Their final scope? Build “new worlds wine” brand awareness.
Here are the top 10 countries that imported more wine to China in 2019 (in terms of value):
- United States
- South Africa
How to export wine to China?
- Find an Importer/distributor and work through traditional distribution channels
- Find a digital marketing agency and work on your reputation & visibility
- Abide by food safety law, Follow Chinese government regulations, local standards, and trademark law (discover food safety law here)
- Apply for all necessary licenses to complete the exporting process
Who are traditional importers and distributors of wine in China?
Oil and Foodstuffs Corporation (COFCO)
COFCO was the unique importer during the first years in which China began to import wine and, according to the volume of distributed wine, is still the leader in China. COFCO uses a logistics company called C & D for the bulk of its imports into China.
ASC Fine Wines:
ASC Fine Wines is representative of over 100 wineries and more than 1,200 different wines.
East Meets West (EMW) Fine Wines:
East Meets West (EMW) Fine Wines representant of more than 600 wine brands from more than 12 different countries.
Torres China only sells wine coming from the world’s most renowned wine-producing regions. A good option for wine producers positioned on the premium market
Globus Wine Company:
Most of Globus Wine Company’s wine comes from boutique producers and it represents around 200 producers.
Summer Gates only sells high-quality products of well-known brands.
Where you can find your partner in China to export wine?
There are a lot of distributors and importers in the Chinese market, it isn’t easy to find the right one as it isn’t simply that they accept your request for collaboration.
This is because they want to work with companies already well-known in China, or with an online reputation. They want to sell fast without any being uncharged by doing branding.
However, in short, to answer this question, we can say that you can make a digital search (but can be time-consuming), rely on a partner that can connect you with the online and offline market (as we can), or attend a trade fair.
There are many wine trade fairs in China and outside China where you can find interesting companies to work with.
Exporting wine to China: Here are some of the most famous wine shows
- China Wine & Food Fair
- China National Food Wine and Spirits Fair
- ProWine China
- Top Wine China
- World Bulk Wine Exhibition
How to build your online reputation?
First of all, you need a Chinese website. The website must be hosted in China, if not consumers would not bear to wait a long time for loading the pages. Also, the content must be adapted to Chinese consumers’ tastes.
Chinese are used to being online many hours per day visiting numerous websites; Chinese companies are very competitive, they use many digital channels, beautiful design, good storytelling, and attractive videos and images.
So, you cannot do less, otherwise, your target doesn’t even consider you.
Secondly, you need to be found. You cannot just pretend to have your own place in the huge digital ecosystem and become popular in China.
In order to be found, you must be present on the different digital platforms. Various channels connected to each other give you more possibilities to be seen as reliable and interesting in your potential customers’ eyes.
What are the main digital platforms wine exporters to China need to know about?
Being active online is essential for any company hoping to do business in China, and there are a few key reasons why:
- The Chinese peoples are increasingly tech-savvy and rely heavily on the internet for information and purchases.
- An online presence provides a way to reach Chinese consumers directly, without relying on intermediaries.
- An online presence allows you to build relationships with potential customers and nurture those relationships over time.
- An online presence can help you create a strong brand identity in China.
And this applies as well when looking to build local traditional distribution channels unless you already have a solid connexion. However, a strong online presence will help down the line with sales increase. In, investing in product awareness is not something you can afford.
SEO/SEM and a Website will help you export wine to China
Website in Chinese: This step is important for wine exporters as it will enable SEO & Paid Advertising. Your Website is going to be one of the first contacts between you and the Chinese importer.
Baidu: is the most important search engine in China (it owns 70% of the Chinese market share for search engines). Doing SEO or SEA is the first thing to do to be found. This is where a local importer will look for you and information about you.
Chinese Social Media
WeChat: is the most used social media in China, Chinese use it to pay, do shopping online, follow KOLs, receive newsletters, and so on. Wechat has been invested by the most serious brands and companies.
For wine importers looking at building a distribution network, it is absolutely key to have not only a WeChat account but also an H5 Brochure with all your listings that can easily be shared.
Weibo: an open social media, very used by KOLs and very useful to build brand awareness. This social media is a powerful weapon to advertise, company can use keywords, cooperate with KOLs and make creative campaigns to become popular. It also belongs to Alibaba, which also owns Tmall, and Taobao, the most popular e-commerce platform in China.
Douyin: also known as Tiktok, is the most popular Chinese social media outside of China but is also very influential in the country. Chinese love watching short videos made by their favorite influencers or KOCs (Key Opinion Consumers) on it. So, you should also consider doing branding on it.
China’s wine market is not just made of middle-aged men, in fact, many young people have found an interest in wine drinking. And Douyin is the perfect channel to reach out to a new and younger audience that is interested in more than red wine.
Convince Grape Wine drinking lovers you are worth it on Q&A & Forums
Zhihu: is a Q&A forum (the Chinese version of Quora). If you have chosen to do SEO on Baidu, this will be a fundamental tool for your SEO strategy.
Wine producers should be on this Q&A platform reaching out to Chinese wine consumers and sharing their knowledge. It’s an excellent place to reach out to niche targets such as wine lovers and build your online reputation
Baidu Zhidao: also a widely used Q&A in china, only not taken as seriously as Zhihu. However, because it belongs to the Baidu eco-system, your post there will have a visibility boost
Sell Wine on Chinese Ecommerce platforms
It has a very good reputation which makes it one of the best places to sell wine online since Chinese consumers want to buy foreign wine because of its high quality and what it represents.
Pinduoduo: The group-buying platform has taken over the people’s republic, from first tier cities to third tier cities. Its’ C2M (consumers to manufacturer) business model allows the platform to offer lower prices in the market.
The platform is affordable to merchants as well, however, it’s worth mentioning that the average consumer’s basket is lower than Tmall or JD which have a user base in bigger cities.
Thirds party apps and platforms: With the country having so many different regions and markets you could very decide to focus on bigger cities for instance and only sell through a WeChat mini-program.
There are many other social media and digital platforms you can take into consideration, just contact us and we tell you what the better strategy for your brand is.
Want to start selling wine in China?
GMA can help your company to make the right decisions in order to be competitive in China, find the right importers and distributors, help you to get a license to sell wine in China, and build your online and offline marketing strategy to conquer the Chinese market.
GMA has been helping companies make it big in China since 2012. We have teams made of people from all over the world and passionate by the market.