By James Wells
Australian wineries exporting to China are being told to change their focus towards consumers rather than the corporate gift-giving market, now that the austerity measures have started to change the market dynamics.
The decision by the Chinese government to eliminate extravagant corporate gift-giving has impacted a number of wineries targeting the market, but despite this China has surpassed France as the biggest consumer market for red wine in the world.
Australian wine is currently positioned only behind France in terms of average pricepoint in the Chinese market among the top 10 importing nations.
China is also Australia’s fourth biggest export market for wine and the biggest for Australian bottled wine exports above $A7.50 per litre.
Wine Australia general manager – market development, James Gosper, believes that while the austerity measures remain in place, consumers should be the next major target for Australian wine brands.
“The Government has not backed down, and this means the development of more traditional routes to market will need to be strengthened, and developed in many cases,” Gosper said.
“It will be short-term heartache, but I see it being a very positive move for the sustainable development of branded wine in China. Understanding who is drinking your wine, and being able to ‘speak with them’. The sales through to the consumers who will have a choice on a list or shelf will mean brand building opportunities.”
Marius Berlemann, project director from Messe Dusseldorf’s Shanghai office, who is – together with his partners at co-organizer CIE/Allworld Exhibitions – jointly responsible for launching the newest Chinese wine trade exhibition – ProWine China, says it is precisely the wrong time to be reducing the commitment to the Chinese market.
“I strongly believe that there are significant opportunities for the Chinese wine market. Until recently, the Chinese wine market was driven by gift-giving and ‘official get togethers’. Which market was neglected? Consumers,” said Berlemann.
“The Chinese wine market sees challenges. But where challenges are there are also chances.
"There is no doubt that Chinese like wine. With the population we see a huge potential, yet many Chinese have only limited knowledge about wine.
"In my opinion the anti-extravagance campaign will only help the Chinese consumer market. Why? Until now the marketing campaigns from the big importers and wine brands were often limited to support the gift market. Now we have seen a change. Finally, every wine brand and importer needs to address the consumer – they will now start to invest more and more in education and branding.
"It is not enough anymore to have a good 'official contact'. To create brand awareness among the majority of Chinese it is especially now important to be present in the market and to show face to buyers at events like ProWine China.”