Chinese consumers drink wine primarily for its health benefits, not for its taste or luxury status, according to new research by Ehrenberg-Bass Institute for Marketing Science.
The most important motivation for drinking wine in China is that wine is good for your health according to Dr Justin Cohen
In a presentation on Chinese consumer behaviour at last week’s Hong Kong International Wine & Spirits Fair, Dr Justin Cohen, research fellow at Ehrenberg-Bass, told attendees what prompts Chinese citizens to drink wine having surveyed 913 upper- and middle-class urban Chinese aged 18 to 50.
“The most important motivation for drinking wine in China is that wine is good for your health,” he said, pointing out that the sample of 913 people included 43% who lived in Shanghai, 60% men, and 45% who earned more than RMB10,000 (£1,025) per month.
The second most important motivating factor for drinking wine was “it helps me relax” said Cohen, followed by “it creates a friendly atmosphere”.
“I like the taste” then came fourth in a list of the most important reasons for drinking wine.
Explaining the results of the research, Cohen noted that the Chinese surveyed by Ehrenberg-Bass repeatedly stressed that they believe that wine is good for their bodies.
“In China, wine consumers are saying they drink wine to help them go to sleep, or because it’s good for their skin, but things like it goes with food, or it makes me feel sophisticated, are less important than we think.”
As widely publicised, it is specifically red wine that is bought for its perceived health-giving properties in China. However, Cohen also noted that when Chinese consumers were asked about taste, they said they preferred red wine over white.
Indeed, when the sample of drinkers were asked about the actual flavour of red wines, responses were almost always favourable.
“Red wines were loved by almost everybody,” he said, noting the use of positive descriptors such as “fruity”, “sweet aftertaste”, and “strong”.
White wines on the other hand were more commonly described as “sour” and “astringent”, he added.
“We constantly hear that, for example, Riesling is great with Szechuan food, but from my experience the reality is that people in China really have a problem with white wine.”
Summing up he said, “That problem is temperature – white wine is cold, and the Chinese, even when they drink water, it’s warm… they have trouble tasting white wine simply because of the temperature.”
The Ehrenberg-Bass Institute for Marketing Science is based at the University of South Australia and Dr Justin Cohen specialises in projects on wine business, retailing and China.