Chinese spirit producers pushback against wine and forge global ambitions

UAWF Board member contributor Paul van der Lee

I attended the China International Alcoholic Drinks Expo (CIADE) held in Luzhou, Sichuan, from 21st to 25th March as a guest of the China Alcoholic Drinks Association.

The Expo featured speeches and a forum by senior Government representatives as well as alcohol industry leaders that focussed on the future of the alcohol industry, not just in China, but globally.

It is relevant to note that CIADE is the only international professional liquor exposition that is approved by the Peoples Republic of China’s Ministry of Commerce. In fact CIADE had strong backing from every level of Chinese Government.

So CIADE was more than just another Wine trade show (of which there are many in China).

The official program emphasis on the international perspectives of export markets and investment was an indicator of the global ambitions of Chinese alcohol producers and the potential role of the Expo in advancing those ambitions.

Although there was a good representation of wine (grape wine) producers, including a contingent from South Australia, the Expo had a greater participation from other forms of alcohol, especially Chinese baijiu (distilled white spirit).

Most interesting was the declared intentions of baijiu producers to reposition baiiju by stressing its cultural heritage; engaging better with consumers; and encouraging healthy drinking.

Evidently baijiu producers (some of the largest producers are state owned enterprises) are seeking to defend their dominant share of the China alcohol market from the encroachment of grape wine, as well as seek overseas markets for baijiu.

An interesting insight for exporters of Australian wine to factor into their assessment of future export growth prospects for the China market.

Paul van der Lee

MWB Lecturer “Australian Wine in the Asian Century”

April 2015

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