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People often think of China as a "sleeping giant" that is awakening to become a significant economic figure on the world scene. In fact, China is developing into a major player, especially in the wine industry. While Chinese wine consumers are not yet seen as sophisticated, they are purchasing ever greater quantities of wine and have increasingly specific needs. It is therefore only a matter of time before they are viewed as specialized consumers.

GWS has been following these trends closely, recently opening an office in Shenzhen and recruiting a three-member team to focus on specific Chinese markets: Northern China (Beijing), Southern China (Shanghai) and Hong Kong. Our presence will ensure that GWS producers have an entry point into this promising market and serve as a source of reliable information about the real needs of Chinese buyers. Having a team that speaks the language and understands the culture provides added value and allows us to anticipate market trends and react quickly.

Sharp growth in activity
The results of this initiative are tangible. Last month, we signed up 60 new buyer members ? importers and distributors of wide-ranging size. Over a period of just 30 days between July 15 and August 15, 2007, GWS published 74 Call for Tenders postings from Chinese buyers. To understand just how rapid the growth in activity has been, in January 2007, there were only 10 requests from China on our site, about the same number as in July 2006.

The quality of the demand is also improving. Chinese wine and spirits consumers are becoming more discriminating in what they choose to drink. While many buyers are still looking for large quantities at a low price, requests are growing for specific products such as Canadian ice wine (currently the most popular item), Scotch, German beer, cognac and brandy.

The appellation makes a difference
Requests are also becoming more specific regarding the region of production, which seems to reflect developing consumer preferences. Generally speaking, New World wines have been favoured by Chinese consumers until recently, but the last two months have seen an increase in the number of requests for French wines, to mention just one example. Moreover, Chinese consumers are beginning to distinguish between wines from Argentina, Chile, Australia and South Africa. Call for Tenders postings have become clearly focused on the country of origin, proving that the Chinese market is learning to recognize the differences between these regions. Most requests for New World wines are for large quantities of entry-level product, but many buyers are progressing towards a higher quality range in Old World wines from regions such as Bordeaux, Médoc or Champagne.

The demand is growing daily. China is looking to purchase large quantities of wine and is increasingly specific and knowledgeable in its requests. This means that more producers worldwide have an opportunity to participate in this enormous market where there is room for all!

Potential for producers
Language can be a significant barrier when it comes to closing a deal with a Chinese importer. That??s where GWS comes in. One of the benefits we offer our members is the possibility of serving as an intermediary in business communications. Our multilingual team is able to understand dealings from the perspective of both buyers and sellers.

Many of our members are hearing this message. We are receiving an increasing number of requests for information on how to penetrate the Chinese market. Some producers have moved a step ahead of the competition by launching a Chinese version of their website as a means of attracting buyers online. These producers recognize the marketing and visibility possibilities of the Internet. Since the very beginning, GWS has emphasized the considerable potential of the Internet as an alternate sales channel! If you are not yet realizing this potential, call your account manager today or contact GWS at info@globalwinespirits.com. Our team can help you develop a strategy to enter the promising Chinese market.

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