Champagne’s future markets: #1 South East Asia29th January, 2013 by Rupert Millar
1. South East Asia
Despite the initial rant against commentators’ obsession with the Far East, there is no denying that it is and will continue to be hugely influential (as evidenced as well by the singling out of two further Asian markets earlier on).
However, as the CIVC’s Thibault le Mailloux suggests, it does perhaps make more sense to consider the Far East as a whole rather than constantly singling out China and Hong Kong as being the best markets Asia has to offer.
To begin with there is no concrete evidence that Champagne is actually that popular in China. The numbers look impressive enough, 19% growth last year to 1,317, 537 bottles, but there are disputes about what these numbers truly represent and arguments put forward that China is something of a white elephant for Champagne.
One unnamed source told the drinks business in the October issue that some of the leading drinks groups were “practically giving away” their Champagne brands on the back of deals for more lucrative spirits contracts. Something which, if true, makes a mockery of any enthusiastic predictions for Champagne’s future in China based purely on statistics.
China is of course too big to ignore and with an estimated one million millionaires as of this year, it would be foolish to. Le Marié notes: “Champagne houses must invest at this point if they want to tap into the new emerging, status-conscious middle classes who are looking for new, aspirational, international products.”
But perhaps China is best regarded in context of the wider region: “There is South East Asia as opposed to just China, it’s part of a region growing altogether,” explains le Mailloux. “If you put Asia’s markets all together you have an existing business of over five million bottles. It’s also an area that is developing very fast; if one country slows down it’s not the case for others in the same region.”
What for example of Taiwan, Vietnam and Malaysia? The latter grew 44% in 2011 to 265,969 bottles and has neighbouring Singapore to influence it. Taiwan represents 192,321 bottles and Vietnam and Indonesia showed growth of 36% and 48% respectively over 2011, though admittedly from small bases.
Japan is perhaps the prime example of what can be achieved in Asia, closely followed by Hong Kong. Many producers talk with great affection for Japan, a market of over seven million bottles that is as developed as many European rivals – “it’s fantastic”, enthuses Laurent d’Harcourt at Pol Roger – however, as he adds, it took 25 years to get that way.
Asia promises much, but the Champenois must be sure not to lose sight of the bigger, global picture.