Wine market in China ‘like dog years’

Justin Cohen from Ehrenberg-Bass Institute has said that China’s rapidly evolving wine consumer market is like “dog years” with one year in China equating to seven years elsewhere.

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Justin Cohen speaking at Meiburg’s Wine in China conference

Speaking at the Wine in China conference hosted by Debra Meiburg MW at ProWine China, Justin Cohen also discussed China’s gifting culture from a sales point of view. While the Government has cracked down on the policy of gifting for its officials, the traditions of buying expensive and luxury gifts is deep-rooted for consumers which can be used an advantage for companies focusing on high end wines.

“If you look at the frequency people buy wine for a special occasion in China, it is maybe one to two times per year,” he said. “So if you have a non-luxury brand, then focusing on the gift giving market is not a good strategy.”

Chuan Zhou, research director at Wine Intelligence also touched on the importance of brands in China, a market which still favours the big names.  “China is a brand market; Chinese love brands,” he said.

“They are much more important than country, region or varietal.  Most consumers prefer to choose a brand they know, they’ve tried before or has been recommended by friends and family.”

Zhou then went on to identify key traits of younger consumers who are now firmly in the sights of many wine companies looking to crack the millennial market.

“When it comes to young people, there are two things to consider:  packaging and lower alcohol content.  Young people in China are moving away from the high alcohol drinking of their parents,” he said.

Social media and the ubiquitous use of WeChat was another hot topic under debate with the general consensus being that if companies are not on WeChat, then they may as well forget trying to do business in China.

“Digital media in China moves at such a rate, that it is baffling even to many in the region, let alone winemakers trying to keep up with WeChat, Weibo and beyond from their rolling vineyards thousands of miles away,” said Meiburg.

Oliver Zhou, managing director of Vinehoo.com also added the importance of accessible online review forums. “Peer reviews are crucial to our business success, he said. “We all know of scandals where other sites hide negative reviews. Peer reviews should be about engagement – a place where people can discuss our wines.”

Meiburg’s Wine in China conference took place on Saturday in Shanghai where 100 members of the local and international wine community gathered to listen to 17 industry experts discuss current issues affecting China’s wine market with special guest, Robert Joseph, author and editor at large of Meininger’s Wine Business International.

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