Growing bigger every year, Vinexpo Asia-Pacific is upon us once again, with more space, exhibitors and products to explore and enjoy.
“Back, bigger than ever!” or “Records will be broken!” Either could be the movie-style tagline for Vinexpo Hong Kong 2014. With shows in Europe having to manage their growth so they are not crushed by the sheer weight of exhibitors and visitors, in Asia the appetite and capacity to grow is still strong.
Vinexpo Hong Kong is set to return with a 50% increase in floor space – spanning two exhibition halls – to 15,000 square metres and a rise in exhibitor numbers from 1,000 in 2012 to some 1,300 this year.
More than 20 wine producing nations will be present at the fair and the Italians are set to double the size of their pavilions, while the Spanish are going to triple it. According to Vinexpo the increase is due to an “explosion” of interest (not dissimilar to London) of Spanish wine and tapas bars in Asia. The new Spanish pavilion will feature three regional focus points in the form of Rioja, a combined stand for La Mancha and Castilla-La-Mancha, and a spotlight on Cava thanks to producer Codorníu. There will also be a strong presence from Champagne, with Bollinger, Billecart-Salmon, Lanson and Laurent-Perrier being just some of that region’s leading brands taking stands at the show.
Meanwhile, visitor numbers are also predicted to go up from the 15,000 that attended in 2012 to some 18,000 – all trade professionals from travel retail buyers, to importers, local and international press nd buyers. Organisers will be hoping for a change in the fair’s demographic this year too as the mainland Chinese market softens and Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Vietnam and Taiwan, among others, continue to provide strong markets in the wider region.
Not that China is no longer important: a Vinexpo study recently found that China and Hong Kong combined were the second biggest market for expensive wines in the world – and China is already the biggest consumer of red wines in the world after overtaking France last year.
China is now the fifth biggest overall wine market in the world, an extraordinary achievement in such a short amount of time – but this rate could not be maintained indefinitely. “We cannot expect the market to have more three-digit growth,” admitted Vinexpo CEO, Guillaume Deglise, “but we can still expect that growth to continue.” Nonetheless, while austerity measures and a natural economic cooling have hit China, Hong Kong appears largely unaffected by the slowdown of its larger neighbour.
In the five years since the scrapping of duty on wine, imports have doubled in value to €316.3 million (much subsequently re-exported to the rest of the region), leading Vinexpo to dub the city the “undisputed gateway” to the Asia-Pacific market and describe the fair itself as a “shop window to the region for the world’s wine and spirits professionals”.
CEO of Vinexpo, Guillaume Deglise, commented on the fair’s continued success and its important rôle in and relevance to the wider region: “Hong Kong has become an essential cog in the wheels of trade and distribution of wine throughout Asia-Pacific.” He continued: “So, exhibitors know that at Vinexpo Asia-Pacific, they are visible at the heart of the region’s market.
He added: “While the expo is obviously a way of gaining direct access to China, it also raises profiles in the emerging markets of South-East Asia. Bear in mind that 40% of wine consumed in Asia is outside China. The region also accounts for 61.5% of the world’s spirits consumption. All the indicators point to yet another resounding success for Vinexpo Asia-Pacific.”
It’s not just wines that visitors will be able to sample, however. Spirits have long held an, arguably, much more prominent and prestigious role in Asia and there is an enormous market for Cognac and an increasingly interesting opportunity for other brown spirits be they Armagnac, Scotch or rum. Although these sales have also been affected in mainland China because of the recent crackdown on ostentatious displays of wealth, volumes increased by 55% between 2008 and 2012 and Asia-Pacific accounts for some 63% of total spirits consumption in the world.
Singapore alone, speaking of markets other than Hong Kong or China, has seen spirits consumption rise 31.9% by volume between 2008 and 2012 and is expected to rise a further 205% between 2013 and 2017. Rum in particular saw an 82.9% rise in consumption between 2008 and 2012 Vinexpo recorded while Tequila and gin have also seen substantial double-figure rises. Scotch remains Singapore’s number one spirit with consumption standing well over 100,000 nine-litre cases a year, a figure expected to grow 20% into 2017. With this in mind, this year’s Vinexpo will see a dedicated spirits section at the fair dubbed “Spiritual” which, like the wine section, will feature tastings and talks on a variety of topics and drinks.