Agri-Food Trade Service
The Wine Market in China:
Opportunities for Canadian Wine Exporters
The Government of Canada has prepared this report based on primary and secondary sources of information. Readers should take note that the Government of Canada does not guarantee the accuracy of any of the information contained in this report, nor does it necessarily endorse the organizations listed herein. Readers should independently verify the accuracy and reliability of the information. This report is intended as a concise overview of the market for those interested in its potential and is not intended to provide in-depth analysis which may be required by the individual exporter. Although every effort has been made to ensure that the information is correct, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada assumes no responsibility for its accuracy, reliability, or for any decisions arising from the information contained herein.
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Table of Contents
- Executive Summary
- Current Market
- Drinking Habits
- Regional Breakdown
- Canadian Wine Industry
- Opportunities for Canadian Wine Exporters
- Contact Information
- Key Industry Events
- Local Wine Importers & Distributors
- Key Resources
- Popular reports place the value of the Chinese grape wine market around CNY75 billion (roughly US$10 billion) in 2009.
- Overall volume sales of grape wine saw a 32% increase from 2008 to 2009, mainly from the sale of still wine.
- Datamonitor forecasts that the Chinese grape wine market should increase by roughly 93% by 2014.
- Datamonitor also forecasts a 90% total increase from 2009 through 2014 in consumer expenditures on wine.
- Still wines are by far the preferred product in the category, accounting for over 90% of total sales.
- Red wine has become particularly popular in China, due to its perceived health benefits, in addition to the fact that it is more heavily produced and promoted, and Icewine's sweet taste has proven popular amongst Chinese consumers.
- Imported premium wines are available mainly in large urban cities and demand is fuelled by residing foreigners and expatriates, although rising consumer awareness and sophistication has been a key driving factor in the spike in grape wine sales recently seen in China.
- Canadian wine exports to China exceeded $6.2 million in 2009, roughly a 25% increase from 2008. Top Canadian exports to China in the grape wine category in 2009 were Icewine at 52%, a range of grape wine products at 32%, and sparkling wine at 14%.
While rice wine is one of the most well-known and popular alcoholic beverages in China, grape wine also has a long history and is widely consumed, though the real market for grape wine is with consumers residing in industrialized cities. This group tends to have more knowledge of grape wine products than rural consumers. However, the average Chinese consumer is unfamiliar with the different types of wine available and better consumer education and brand awareness is needed for imported wine to successfully penetrate the Chinese market.
Overall, Chinese consumers are price sensitive and prefer to purchase local or regional brands. Wine consumption is normally reserved for special occasions and imported premium wines are available mainly in restaurants catering to foreigners or expatriates. Some large Chinese seafood restaurants have begun offering wine for on-trade consumption.
Premium products cater more to well-off individuals who want to display their wealth. High-end products, such as premium wine and champagne, are more likely to be purchased as gift items rather than for personal consumption; overall sales remain modest due to high prices. Nonetheless, premium, imported wine does have a following in populated urban coastal cities, especially among the expatriate population and this demand should help pave the way for the introduction of imported wines to local consumers.
Still wines are by far the preferred product in the category, accounting for over 90% of total sales. Still wine is followed by fortified wine at roughly 4% of the sector and sparkling wine at 2%. Red wine has become particularly popular in China, due to its perceived health benefits in addition to the fact that it is more heavily produced and promoted by a wide range of domestic and multinational manufacturers. This has caused many Chinese consumers to be more familiar with red grape wines, such as Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, rather than white grape wines.
In urban areas, there is a greater receptiveness to new types of alcoholic beverages, niche products and imported drinks. Accordingly, Icewine's sweet taste has proven popular amongst Chinese consumers. Overall, wine consumption is normally reserved for special occasions. Prohibitive pricing continues to keep grape wine sales modest. Imported premium wines are available mainly in large urban cities and demand is fuelled by residing foreigners and expatriates, although rising consumer awareness and sophistication has been a key driving factor in the spike in grape wine sales recently seen in China.
While difficult to assess with 100% accuracy, popular reports place the value of the Chinese grape wine market around CNY75 billion (roughly US$10 billion) in 2009. For the purposes of this report the more conservative estimate given by Datamonitor, and its supporting statistics were used more widely. However, growth projections, key products, key players and key considerations were common to most sources.
Overall volume sales of grape wine saw a 32% increase from 2008 to 2009, mainly from the sale of still wine. The average annual expenditure per capita on wine in 2009 was CNY56 (roughly US$8.5). The Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of average per capita expenditures on wine from 2004 through 2009 was 13.9%. Spending on still wine was the highest at CNY52.4 (roughly US$7.9) per capita per year.
|Yantai Changyu Group Company Ltd.||Overall||20.2||20.6|
|China Great Wall Wine Co, Ltd||Piper Heidsieck||16.8||17.1|
|Tonghua Grape Wine Co., Ltd.||Moët & Chandon||12.9||12.9|
|Dynasty Fine Wines Group Ltd.||Great Wall||9.9||9.6|
|Yantai Weilong Grape Wine Co., Ltd.||Overall||0.4||0.3|
|Shengda Wine Co., Ltd||Overall||0.3||0.2|
|Beijing Dragon Seal Winery Co., Ltd.||Overall||0.2||0.1|
Drinking wine is increasingly regarded as fashionable and trendy; red wine is growing in popularity due to its perceived health benefits. Additionally, the colour red also signifies good luck and happiness in China which has helped sales. These traditional beliefs should not be discounted when they can be advantageous to a product with respect to marketing. White wine has established a small but growing base as Chinese consumers have adapted more easily to the lighter, fresher taste of white wine. Fortified wine is a very broad category and includes a number of domestic and international players. Vermouth is included in this category, but comprises about 7% of the category's total sales. Sparkling wine overall sales remain substantially lower in comparison to still and fortified wines.
Datamonitor forecasts that the Chinese grape wine market should increase by roughly 93% by 2014. Datamonitor also predicts that still wine will maintain its position as the leading category in the total wine market.
The still wine category is expected to see a CAGR of 14.5% between 2009 and 2014 and account for 97% of the total wine market in 2014 - an increase of 2% compared to a market share of 95% in 2009. The Chinese still wine market is expected to rise to CNY138.5 (US$19.9) billion by the end of 2014 - a sales increase of CNY69.2 (US$10) billion for the five-year period spanning 2009-2014.
The fortified wine category is forecast to be the second largest category in the Chinese wine market. The fortified wine category is expected to see a CAGR of 3.3% between 2009 and 2014 and account for 2.5% of the total market in 2014. The sparkling wine category is forecast to see a CAGR of 0.3% between 2009 and 2014, accounting for 0.67% of the total wine market in 2014.
Datamonitor also forecasts a 90% total increase from 2009 through 2014 in consumer expenditures on wine. Still wine is expected to lead the way in growth at 96%, while fortified and sparkling wines will see modest growth with 18% and 44% respectively.
New Product Development
The following information includes new introductions into the Chinese wine market relating to flavours and promotional claims on packaging in 2009.
The top flavour and fragrance infused new wine products launched in China in 2009 included: Apple, Peach, Plum, and White wine.
The top packaging claims from wine products in 2009 included: Premium; Environmentally Friendly Product; Vitamin/Mineral Fortified; No Additives/Preservatives; Limited Edition.
This information was drawn from Mintel GNPD.
Market Entry Considerations
Despite its almost clichéd status, China's economic growth and transformation continues to marvel. Tempering all of these harrowing statistics is the sheer size of the Chinese population. Dismissing a consumer market of one of China's richest cities because it may be only 10% of the total population would be turning a back to over a million people in most cases. For many reasons China is a very intriguing market full of potential.
Chinese consumers suffer from lack of wine education and brand awareness. Since on-trade generates the highest sales, exporters will find it best to target restaurants and hotels. High-end restaurants, hotels, bars and nightclubs are the best venues through which to target middle and upper income Chinese consumers with imported wines. For example, wines from New Zealand are often placed on restaurant wine lists in Shanghai and Beijing and are priced at about US$40-to-90 dollars a bottle. It should be noted that Canadian wine producers and exporters also face challenges arising from the proliferation of fake and counterfeit wine products across China.
China is a vast country with more than 1.3 billion people, making it difficult to generalize drinking habits. However, there are some common practices and traditions. In the past, consumption of alcoholic beverages was reserved for special occasions and celebrations. Alcohol was consumed with family members and relatives following certain rituals as a sign of respect. This practice still continues today among older generations.
However, drinking is now a less formal activity and is a means of relaxation as well as an excuse for friends to get together and socialize. As a result of China's one child policy, the country has a sizeable portion of young people who, as only children, have less family obligations and financial responsibilities. Therefore, a greater proportion of their income can be spent on personal consumption. Young Chinese are also more receptive to Western products and willing to try out new drinks. These trends have opened up lucrative markets that Canadian exporters can target.
Although off-trade sales for stores and home consumption make up the greater percentage of overall sales, alcohol is increasingly consumed in on-trade premises, such as in bars and restaurants despite higher on-trade prices. In many ways, alcohol consumption outside the home has become more of a lifestyle statement for young people and the wealthy. Consumption of alcoholic beverages has also risen among women. Rising incomes, especially in urban areas, have led to greater demand for high quality prestigious products that can demonstrate wealth and convey higher status. In urban areas, there is also greater receptiveness to new types of alcoholic beverages, niche products and imported drinks. Alcoholic beverages accompany meals and are frequently served during business functions.
As late as 1985, China had one of the narrowest income distribution gaps in the world. However, the gap between the richest and poorest in China is widening at an alarming rate; one of the quickest rates in the world. This gap is due in large part to the differences in income between urbanites and rural residents, but coupled with this gap, is a very noticeable income gap through various regions in China. The average income of an urbanite is roughly three times that of a rural resident and the average income of someone living in the East is 2.25 times higher than that of someone living in the West. When identifying a consumer target the choice between an eastern urbanite and a rural westerner would seem obvious. However, income inequities have become even further complicated.
Due in large part to the rural/urban income gap, rural Chinese continue to move to cities in search of higher incomes. This movement has led to further income inequities as the income gap between the richest and the poorest urbanites has exploded. The richest 20% of China's urban population control roughly 50% of the total consumer income while the lowest 20% control only 6%. Movement to the cities has also had an interesting effect on the overall income of the cities themselves. Cities in China that were once considered the richest or best cities for business have faded quickly. For instance a top five city in 1999 would have now been overtaken by several cities that would not have been ranked in 1985.
At present, the four top tiered cities in terms of income, GDP and population in China are Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Shanghai and Beijing. A second tier includes cities such as Chongqing, Tianjin, Hangzhou, Chengdu and Shenyang. Cities that have potential in the foreseeable future include Dongguan, Ningbo, Suzhou, Qingdao, Dalian, Harbin and Guiyang. Research by McKinsey & Company indicates that mid-sized cities have the fastest growing incomes.
A map of GDP per capita by province can be seen at: www-958.ibm.com/software/data... (Flash)
Some highlighted consumer segments include: the mid-range income group, the wealthy high income class, returned overseas Chinese, and expatriates. Premium domestic and imported wine is mainly consumed by the high income group, who are status-conscious and have developed a greater understanding and appreciation of wine. Returned overseas Chinese and expatriates are also important segments. Having lived abroad, many appreciate good quality wine and demand wine produced abroad to be available in China. They are also able to educate locals on wine culture. However, current and up-and-coming middle class consumers are beginning to try out wine products, especially imported inexpensive still grape wine. This market segment is much larger than the aforementioned groups and presents a real opportunity for the growth of grape wine products in China.
Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou currently have the highest concentration of imported wine products, which are priced at the higher end of the market. Domestic wines are also present but they are of inferior quality. While on-trade wine sales are strong, purchases of domestic and foreign premium and regular table wine in supermarkets and hypermarkets account for the largest sales volume, comprising more than half of total volume sales in 2006.
On a regional basis, Eastern China has the strongest alcoholic beverage sales in the country; wine alone accounted for almost 50% of total sales in this region in 2006. The region benefits from the large number of residing foreigners and expatriates, whose demand for imported wine has helped introduce new products into the market. In addition, the coastal cities of Eastern China benefit from an extensive distribution network. This region is a good launch point for Canadian exporters due to its wealthy consumer base, solid infrastructure and strategic location. Many domestic and international distributors also have their headquarters here. The South is another promising market for Canadian wine exporters. Consumers here have a greater acceptance and knowledge of Western products and foreign imports are seen as fashionable. This region is supported by a robust economy and continued economic growth, and large populations are found in urban centres. Both on- and off-trade sales are strong. The South is also well positioned with close proximity to major shipping ports (e.g. Hong Kong and the Pearl River Delta). There is also potential for niche products, such as fruit wine to enter the market.
Key areas: Beijing, Qingdao, Dalian
As the political, economic and cultural centre of China, the Northeast is a very competitive market comprised of both international and domestic players. Foreign imports are quite successful in large cities but local brands also have a strong presence. Leading domestic wine producers include Changyu, Great Wall, and Dynasty. Dragon Seal caters to local Chinese but also has a following among foreigners. The North is also the traditional wine-producing region of China and still grape wine production has increased in recent years as a result of economic development in large urban cities like Beijing, Qingdao and Dalian. Consumers from Northern and Northeastern China are reputed to drink more than their Southern counterparts and local producers have always had high volume sales in this region. However, consumers have relatively low incomes and choose local products, such as low priced lager and spirits over imported alcoholic beverages. There are some high income local Chinese who purchase premium or imported wine to display their wealth. Nonetheless, the Northeast is a potential market for wine exporters as disposable incomes rise and the Chinese palate evolves. Marketing wine as a modern, high-end product is the key to success as consumers view wine consumption as a sign of sophistication.
At present, the demand for wine in this region comes mostly from the expatriate community in Beijing. Expatriates seek premium, high quality imported wines from countries such as France, Australia and South Africa. Wine sales were expected to see continued growth as the Chinese government sought to introduce more varieties of Western food and drink into the regional market in the run up to the 2008 Olympics. More and more restaurants are offering a selection of domestic and imported wines. Companies looking to penetrate this regional market should look to promote their product in supermarkets, as off-trade sales for premium wines are the strongest. There should also be a greater emphasis on increasing brand recognition and wine education.
Key areas: Shanghai, Shandong, Zhejiang
Eastern China has the strongest alcoholic beverage sales in the country; wine alone accounted for almost 50% of total sales in this region in 2006. The consumer base is wealthier and more sophisticated, especially in large cities such as Shanghai. Other major cities include Qingdao, Hangzhou and Nanjing. Consumers in this region view wine as healthy and sophisticated. Overall, consumers have a greater knowledge of and appreciation for wine. The region also benefits from the large number of residing foreigners and expatriates, whose demand for imported wine has helped introduce new products into the market.
The coastal cities of Eastern China also benefit from an extensive distribution network, making it easier for new products to enter the market. This region is a good launch point for Canadian exporters due to its wealthy consumer base, solid infrastructure and strategic location. Many domestic and international distributors also have their headquarters here, making it easier to network and establish business contacts.
Despite these advantages, competition in this region is fierce. Currently, Dynasty is the largest domestic wine producer, while Zhejiang Guyue Longshan Shaoxing Wine is the top selling rice wine. Due to the proliferation of bars, night clubs and restaurants in urban cities, on-trade sales are booming and offer higher rates of return than off-trade sales. On-trade sales are also boosted by strong retail development. Nonetheless, off-trade sales continue to dominate as many consumers purchase alcohol for entertaining at home. Off-trade sales are also aided by the large number of supermarkets and hypermarkets in this region.
Due to low income, consumers in this region prefer to buy local products, which are less expensive and cater to more traditional tastes. Rice wine is popular, although still grape wine is seeing some growth due to its associated health benefits. Still wine led growth in alcoholic drinks in this region during 2009. This demand is primarily fuelled by rising consumer sophistication and a taste for Western style foods. Despite the fact that the wine market in this region is dominated by local producers, it is important to note that international spirits products have rapidly grown in popularity. Dominant players in the region are Dynasty, Great Wall and Changyu. In a reverse trend, on-trade sales are stronger than off-trade sales. However, the growth of supermarkets has boosted off-trade sales of alcoholic beverages.
The West/Northwest region of China sees the lowest volume sales and the slowest growth for a number of reasons. The population is of the mid- to low-income bracket and therefore cannot afford to buy expensive, imported alcohol. In addition, consumers prefer traditional, local products and have little awareness or interest in premium or imported products. Strong spirits are highly popular due to the cold climate of the region. Grape wine leads growth within alcoholic drinks in this region as demand increases with a diversification of consumer tastes and an increase in incomes. Consumers also prefer sweet wine to table wine. Local player Xixia King Winery Group has established itself in this region through successful marketing and distribution. National player Yantai Changyu Pioneer Wine has made significant investment in the form of TV advertising in order to increase brand awareness amongst consumers, while COFCO Wines & Spirits has taken a different avenue, expanding its distribution network instead of mass advertising. Local players dominate the small yet competitive market and the region is often neglected by international and national brands. There have also been cases of counterfeit products, deterring potential investments in this region.
Key areas: Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Dongguan
The South is another promising market for Canadian wine exporters. Consumers in this region have the largest disposable incomes in the country, high living standards, and a willingness to spend money on luxury items. The region is supported by a robust economy and continued economic growth, and large populations are found in urban centres. Both on- and off-trade sales are strong; many consumers enjoy socializing and eating out, raising the demand for alcoholic beverages.
Rice wine continues to dominate the market as the traditional drink of choice but red wine and champagne are seeing healthy growth. Great Wall leads in the still grape wine category, although Changyu is also a local favourite. Consumers tend to purchase premium wines as gifts and not for personal consumption because they have a higher price of around CNY80 to 100 (approximately $9-$12) compared to CNY20 (approximately $2) for regular local table wine. A large percentage of wine sales come from wines under CNY30. Wine imports from abroad have great success in this market due to the greater sophistication of the region's consumer segment. Consumers here have a greater acceptance and knowledge of Western products and foreign imports are seen as fashionable. The presence of large chain supermarkets, such as Wal-Mart and Carrefour has helped boost sales due to better distribution networks. The South is also well positioned with close proximity to major shipping ports (e.g. Hong Kong and the Pearl River Delta). There is also potential for premium niche products to enter the market. Cider, Perry, ready-to-drink products (RTDs) and alcoholic premixes have seen steady growth, and producers of fruit wine and wine-related products have the potential to carve out a piece of the market.
Key areas: Chongqing, Chengdu, Kunming
Local still red wine garners strong demand in Southwest China, particularly in urban cities such as Chongqing, Guiyang, Kunming and Chengdu. Demand has also been boosted through promotions in supermarkets, night clubs and restaurants. Large cities, such as Chongqing, have a thriving nightlife, while the Yunnan region has many popular tourist attractions, bringing in large numbers of tourists who want high quality alcoholic beverages while on vacation. The rural population prefers inexpensive local products, but there is a market for high priced rice wine. Domestic wineries dominate the regional market, although international brands have had success in large cities. On the whole, consumers are price sensitive and are reluctant to purchase expensive alcoholic products, which they know little about. The region also suffers from a poor distribution network and a lack of supermarkets and hypermarkets. Despite this, wine consumption has seen steady growth in night clubs and bars, especially that of foreign brands. Off-trade wine sales are boosted by in-store wine promotion, which is mostly done in supermarkets. It is common practice to offer discounts or free gifts along with wine purchases. The region is expected to see a slight growth in alcoholic beverage sales in the near future, although there will be intense competition among foreign, national and local players.
|Region||Rank In Total Wine Sales||Top Cities||Key Products||Target Consumer Segment|
|East||1||Shanghai||Premium/ imported wine, spirits and beer
|High income elite
|South||2||Guangzhou||Premium/ imported wine, spirits and beer||High income elite
|4||Beijing||Domestic and premium beer
|High income elite Middle-upper class
|Southwest||5||-||Domestic beer and wine||Middle-upper class|
|West||N/A||-||Domestic beer and wine||Middle-upper class|
Canadian Wine Industry
Canadian wine production is small compared to traditional wine producing countries such as France and Italy. New world wine producers, such as Australia, Chile and the United States also have a bigger wine production capacity compared to Canada. Nonetheless, total Canadian wine exports to all countries reached over $21.1 million in 2009 compared to $19.2 million in 2004. Ninety per cent were bottled grape wine exports, while 7.2% of grape wine was exported in bulk.
Canadian wine exports to China exceeded $6.2 million in 2009, roughly a 25% increase from 2008. Top Canadian exports to China in the grape wine category in 2009 were Icewine at 52%, a range of grape wine products at 32%, and sparkling wine at 14%.
Icewine has proved particularly popular in Asia Pacific and Southeast Asian markets in recent years, as the fascination with Icewine's unique production (i.e. handpicked frozen grapes during winter months) is widespread among these regions' consumers. The "sought after/exclusive" product is often purchased when visiting Canada as gifts or investments, let alone for drinking. With limited supply and a small but competitive marketplace, Icewine has become the most feasible opportunity for Canadian companies in this market at present. In addition to Icewine's continuous climb, both other grape wine products as well as sparkling wine have shown considerable growth in the past few years.
Still Grape Wine
Still grape wine exports to China grew from $968,446 in 2008 to $1,493,255 in 2009. According to 2008 statistics, there are more than 140 licensed wineries in Ontario, which together cover 16,000 acres. In 2007, around 52,000 tonnes of wine grapes were harvested. In British Columbia, there are 189 wineries and 710 vineyards. The five main wine producing regions in the province are the Okanagan Valley, Fraser Valley, Vancouver Island, Gulf Islands and Similkameen. The ratio of white to red wine production is almost fifty-fifty. In 2009, approximately 13 million litres of wine was produced in British Columbia. The value of wine grapes in the province amounted to $40.3 million the same year.
Types of wine made in Canada include table wine, late harvest wines, Icewine and sparking wines. The most common white grape varieties used are Riesling, Chardonnay, Vidal Blanc, Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc, and Gewurztraminer. Red grape varieties include Cabernet Franc, Baco Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Gamay Noir, and Merlot.
Sparkling Grape Wine
Canadian exports of sparkling grape wine to China saw tremendous growth from $168,810 in 2008 to $994,990 in 2009. On a whole, sparkling grape wine accounts for around 9% of Canada's total exports of grape wine to the world.
Canada annually exports an average $10 million in Icewine varieties to over 30 countries worldwide. Icewine exports totalled just over $8.6 million in 2009, a 26% decrease from 2008 values; this decease is likely due to the 2008/09 global recession.
|South Korea||$2.5 million|
|United States||$1.2 million|
Icewine has proved particularly popular in Asia Pacific and Southeast Asian markets in recent years, as the fascination with Icewine's unique production (i.e. handpicked frozen grapes during winter months) is widespread among these regions' consumers. In fact, Icewine is extremely rare in Asian markets, and the "sought after/exclusive" product is often purchased when visiting Canada as gifts or investments, let alone for drinking. The growth of Canadian Icewine in Asian markets is realized firsthand in export data; approximately 74% of Canadian Icewine is exported to Asian markets, a value of $6.3 million in 2009. Furthermore, seven of the top ten Canadian Icewine export destinations are Asian countries, signifying the popularity of the dessert wine in this region. The export of Icewine is the most feasible opportunity for Canada at present.
Opportunities for Canadian Wine Exporters
Investment & Partnerships
The top five countries Canada exports wine to are China, South Korea, the United States, Singapore, and Japan. It is interesting to note that four of the five countries are found in Asia, highlighting the growing potential of Asia as a consumer market for wine. China, which was in sixth place in 2006 for exports, has risen to become the chief export market for Canadian Icewine in 2009. The issue that most directly affects Canada's wine export potential to China is supply related. Wine making is concentrated in the Niagara Falls region of Ontario and in interior British Columbia. At present, Canada does not have the capability to produce large quantities of wine and the majority of current output is geared towards domestic consumption.
A path Canadian wineries can take is to export Canadian wine production expertise to Chinese wine producers. France has already taken the lead and set up a Sino-French experimental winery in China to collaborate on wine growing and producing techniques as well as labelling requirements. These types of partnerships will benefit wine producers worldwide. For example, China's definition for dry wine differs from those of other wine growing countries and yet it still sells its wine under this label. Uninformed consumers will therefore buy Chinese wine with the assumption that the standard is comparable to that of foreign dry wine imports.
Another option is to enter the market through joint ventures (JV). Changyu Winery has partnered with a Canadian entrepreneur to grow Vidal grape wine varieties used for icewine production in China. Changyu is said to have produced around 600,000 litres of icewine in 2007, 50% more than Canada's total Icewine production. Changyu has also begun to aggressively market its icewine products across China. Pelee Island Winery and Yuyuan Winery CO are negotiating an agreement to blend and bottle wine from Canada. Importers can also enter the mainland through the official state importer, the China National Cereals, Oils and Foodstuffs Import and Export Cooperation (CEROILS).
Canadian wine is also making its way into China through another means — Chinese take-overs. In 2007, China's Tonghua winery purchased a 70% stake in Canadian company King's Court Estate Winery for US$6.6 million. The goal of this acquisition was for Tonghua to expand its icewine market by taking advantage of Canadian Icewine expertise. Tonghua was the first icewine producer in China and their wineries are located in Northeast China.
Canadian companies looking to expand into China should be aware of these points:
- Lowering prices and cutting costs
Ensuring prices are competitive and keeping costs low is crucial to achieve a good profit margin as Chinese consumers are extremely price sensitive, the market is highly competitive and distribution costs can add up.
- A cooperative approach
Buyers and wholesalers have expressed interest in marketing a number of wineries under a collective Canadian Banner, thus ensuring a supply of Canadian whites and reds for buyers. While not ideal from a Brand loyalty perspective, it is an interesting plan.
- Diversity in tastes and preferences of chosen geographic
Large scale marketing is costly and time-consuming given the diversity of preferences across the country. While large domestic firms can afford to do this, Canadian wine companies are unlikely to achieve this scale of promotion at present. Mindful of the varying tastes across the regions, Canadian importers can choose to focus on a specific region, city or consumer group to target their promotion. Increasing wine education and popularizing wine in specific groups can have a trickle down effect and spread to other consumer groups.
- Existing and upcoming middle class
Currently, Canadian wine importers may find it best to focus on the affluent, urban-based Chinese who can afford the high price of Icewine. However, as incomes rise in mid-sized cities, China will see a surge in the number of people who fall under the middle class category. This is a very short time to undertake market research, establish business relationships, enhance brand awareness and develop brand loyalty. Wine education and brand awareness is a long-term investment that needs to start immediately if Canadian exporters want to take advantage of the new and rising middle and upper class markets. France, for example, has been in the Chinese market for more than a decade. In the meantime, Canada can expand its wine making capabilities to increase supply to the market.
To gain an overview of the agriculture, food and beverage market in China, visit www.tradecommissioner.gc.ca/eng/market-reports-by-country.jsp?cid=512&rid=11.
Due to insufficient domestic grape production, Chinese wine makers often import grapes and bulk wine to blend with local wine. Chinese wine faces severe criticism from wine experts around the world due to its poor quality and taste. At present, China does not have a wine grading system, which presents a major problem for importers hoping to differentiate their products based on a common scale of comparison. There are around 500 small wineries in China, producing wine grapes of varying quality. Canada, on the other hand, has stringent quality standards regulated by a system set up by the Vintners Quality Alliance (VQA). It regulates where grapes come from, label details, vintage requirements, packaging procedures, and conducts laboratory analysis on finished wines to ensure they meet minimum standards before the final product can enter the consumer market. Recently, the Canadian government teamed up with the Canadian Vintners Association to develop a food safety program aimed at ensuring Canadian wine products maintain the highest quality and safety standards throughout the production chain.
Canadian wine producers and exporters also face challenges arising from the proliferation of fake and counterfeit wine products across China. Many Chinese wines have been revealed to contain only water, colouring, grape juice and alcohol. There have also been cases in the past few years of fake Icewine products in China bottled and packaged under the name “Canadian Icewine” or “Icewine style” and sold for a lowly CNY10-20 ($1-$3). Icewine spelled out as one word is a registered trademark of Canada but producers have problems enforcing this law abroad. The hefty price tag for Icewine also encourages locals to manufacture cheap counterfeit substitutes. In addition to poor IPR controls, China also has poor market management and supervision, as mentioned earlier with regard to quality standards and regulations.
A major priority for Canada is to enhance the image of Canadian Icewine as a high quality, luxury product and to increase consumer education on icewine's unique production process. This is especially important in light of cases of counterfeit Canadian Icewine. Chinese consumers want to buy products that enhance their status and are more attracted to prestigious brands with attractive labels and packaging.
The wine market in China is extremely fragmented with over 500 small wine producers. Leading wine producers include Great Wall, Changyu, Tonghua and Dynasty. Together they make up approximately 60% of the wine market. Changyu is currently the leader in the still grape wine market. It is the biggest wine producer and focuses on offering premium wine products. Less well known brands include Remy Cointreau, Yantai Weilong Grape Wine, Shengda Wine, Dragon Seal, and Suntime. Dominant local players have well established distribution networks, although they may be confined to a specific region.
Chinese companies are actively seeking to improve the quality of their wine and thus boost their presence internationally. Chinese wine suffers from a lack of good quality grapes, forcing wineries to import wine grapes from abroad and mix it with local grapes. These blends are often poorly done, resulting in a poor tasting wine. Nonetheless, Chinese wineries recognize this problem and are taking action. Recently, some Chinese wine companies (e.g. Dynasty and Tonghua) have listed shares outside of China and many are looking to take over foreign wineries. Although it would take 10 to 20 years before the quality of Chinese wine improves, when it does, Chinese wine will be very competitive in the market, given low labour and production costs. The impact of a cheaper yet substandard product dominating the market for an extended period must be considered when forecasting the future of grape wine in China.
Apart from local competitors such as Changyu and Dynasty, Canadian exporters face foreign competitors in China predominately from Australia, France, Chile and the United States. Australian wine is popular due to its close shipping proximity and low prices, and Europe has long been perceived by the Chinese as the original producer of wine, hence guaranteeing high quality. France is currently the leading exporter of wine to China. Other foreign competitors come from the Italy, Spain and Germany. Competition for the high-end market is particularly fierce, especially for wine sold at upscale locations in large, prosperous urban cities like Shanghai.
China's vast country and large population offer large and varied markets that exporters can tap into. However, its sheer size can be a hindrance as China's infrastructure is often underdeveloped in many areas. It is also hard to find a good distributor who can guarantee the timely distribution of products and foreign importers often have to turn to many agents, complicating co-ordination. In addition, agents vary in their levels of competence and reliability. New importers may find it difficult to persuade a well-established distributor to take on their wines as these firms often already have agreements to distribute certain wines. An effective distribution network and promotional strategy is crucial. Potential importers must also consider storage and transportation facilities, which vary in quality and reliability depending on the region.
Potential importers can seek to have their goods distributed in four ways: firstly, through contacting a retailer directly; secondly, through an agent; thirdly, through a wholesaler/distributor; and fourthly, through a wholesale mart. Most foreign/imported wines are consumed in high-end restaurants but supermarkets are increasingly located where middle- and high-income consumers go to buy their groceries.
Supermarket sales can be boosted if brand awareness and wine education is targeted not only at consumers, but also at store clerks and managers responsible for selling and stocking the wine. Examples of wine promotion in Chinese supermarkets include discounting prices (local wines are sometimes sold at half the price); wine tasting events; prize draws; or buy one get one free deals, where a complimentary can of soda is handed out for every bottle sold. Currently, promotion of domestic wine is aggressive, while promotion of foreign wines remains at a much smaller scale. Carrefour recently held an Autumn Wine Festival in Beijing showcasing wines from famous winemaking areas such as France, Italy, Australia, Chile and South Africa in its stores with free wine-tasting events and discounts on wine purchases.
Local wineries distribute their wine in three ways. One is through restaurants and liquor stores by securing deals with the help of agents. There are also some state-owned distributors who deliver nationally. Secondly, through supermarkets, and thirdly, by setting up a large warehouse in big cities and having agents or businesses approach them to make direct purchases. More information on distribution can be found at: www.tdctrade.com/chinadistribution/index.htm.
Barriers to Entry
Before China's entry into the World Trade Organization (WTO), tariffs on wine could reach up to 65%. Now, tariffs on imported foreign alcohol range from 10% to 30%. Bottled wine faces tariffs of around 12% to 14%, while wine in bulk faces tariffs of around 20%. These tariffs, combined with the 10% Consumption Tax Rate (CTR) and 17% Value Added Tax (VAT), result in an overall tax of around 50% of the product's value.
Standards for wine fall under the responsibility of the Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ). In 2005, the government adjusted its regulations with regard to imports and revised its standards for wine, including a definition for icewine. However, these standards do not necessarily correspond with international standards. Some standards that apply to wine:
- Standards for the Administration of Wholesaling of Alcoholic Products
- Standards for Administration of Retailing of Alcoholic Products
- Measures for the Administration of Wine Distribution
- Hygiene Standards of Distilled and Brewed Wine
An unofficial translation of the new wine standards can be found at: http://www.calwinexport.com/files/National Wine Market_Shanghai ATO_China - Peoples Republic of_8-19-2009.pdf
Labelling is governed more generally under the General Provisions on Pre-packaged Food Labelling. Labelling must be in Chinese. There is currently no wine classification or grading system in China. Wine either receives the designation of passed or not passed. More can be found at: www.wines-info.com/en/item.aspx?col=195.
The Chinese wine market poses numerous opportunities for Canadian businesses. China currently ranks as the top export market for Canadian wine, although Canada's total exports to China remain considerably low compared to other wine out-putting nations. The sweet taste of Canadian wines, specifically Icewine, is incredibly popular amongst urban Chinese consumers. It is important to note the many barriers that exist when exporting to China, and that knock-off brands are common and rampant. Canadian businesses interested in penetrating this market should move sooner rather than later, as China's own domestic wine production, when fully developed, will be a serious competitor in terms of cost and quality.
It is recommended that Canadian businesses looking to export to the Chinese market get in touch with the regional trade office: www.tradecommissioner.gc.ca/eng/office.jsp?cid=512&oid=32
It is also recommended that these businesses review the food trade events that occur in China throughout the year: www.ats-sea.agr.gc.ca/eve/eve-asi-eng.htm
Embassy of Canada to China
19 Dong Zhi Men Wai Street, Chaoyang District,
Beijing, 100600, China
Tel: (011-86-10) 6532-3536
Fax: (011-86-10) 6532-4072
Web Page Address (URL): www.tradecommissioner.gc.ca/cn
Other URL: www.china.gc.ca
Office Hours: Mon-Fri: 0800-1630
Time Difference E.S.T.: +13
Key Industry Events
Shanghai Wine & Spirits
Wine Culture China
Wine China Exhibition
WINEXPO China Wine & Spirits
Wine and Gourmet Asia
Local Wine Importers & Distributors
To facilitate successful export of wine products, Canadian exporters are encouraged to develop market entry strategies that include working with local importers and distributors in target markets to develop a presence, gain valuable market advice, and best position products to meet local tastes, laws and pricing.
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- Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada – China Agricultural Policy Review
- Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada – China Past, Present & Future Report
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- Canadian Trade Commissioner Service – China
- Canadian Vintners Association – Canadian Wine Statistics
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(Sections extracted on: December 2010 - Reference Code: DBCM7174 - Publication Date: October 2010) © Datamonitor