China projected to become the world’s second biggest wine consumer

With China projected to become the world’s second biggest wine consumer by 2020, it is crucial for wine producers and brands with an interest in the market to understand what lies behind this trend.

One standout driver of China’s love of wine is a growing awareness of health and wellbeing. According to recent analysis by Wine Intelligence, the number one motivation for Chinese consumers to drink wine is the health benefits. This factor is far more important even than the taste of the wine, making it a vital issue for producers to consider when marketing their wines to the Chinese consumer.

Gender Divide

This concern with health and wellness is especially true of young female wine consumers. A recent study by HKTDC Research revealed that for 77% of respondents health was the primary reason for drinking wine with 84% of those aged between 31-40 years old giving this as their main motivation. In total 61% of female respondents said they drink wine for “beauty” reasons, yet only 28% of men prioritised health concerns when choosing what to drink.

Another factor contributing to the awareness amongst young women of the health benefits of wine is the rise of online KOLs (Key Opinion Leaders). Many of China’s leading KOLs are female and they help to promote this message about the benefits of drinking wine.

Lower Alcohol Than Traditional Spirits

Traditionally China has always been a nation of spirits drinkers. The national drink is baijiu, a strong spirit distilled from wheat or rice which can have an alcohol content by volume of up to 70%. Baijiu generated $100 billion in sales in 2017, but there are signs that consumers are increasingly turning to wine as it is perceived to be healthier.

The key advantage of wine is that the alcohol by volume is significantly lower than that for baijiu. During focus group sessions conducted by HKTDC Research, respondents also contributed comments like “Red wine is healthier because it has anti-oxidant substances which may prevent cardiovascular diseases”. For health conscious consumers, this difference makes wine a much more attractive choice.

Some Sweetness But Not Too Much

Chinese consumers’ growing concern with their health also means that they tend to avoid sweet dessert wines. Although there is a strong market for wines with some residual sugar, especially amongst female consumers, health concerns about very high sugar levels mean that Chinese wine drinkers tend to avoid these types of intensely sweet wines.

Sales of sugar-rich dessert wines like Sauternes have struggled in China. According Professor Li from the Beijing University of Agriculture, “The only exception is ice wines—although many buy them as gifts, rather than for personal consumption.” Li’s research into Chinese wine consumer behaviour demonstrates that concerns with obesity are leading people to choose wines which are lower in sugar.

The health benefits of wine are thus a crucial factor determining consumer behaviour in China. Using this information in your marketing activity can be extremely helpful for consumers and highlighting the health benefits of your wines will help you to stand out from competitors in an increasingly crowded marketplace.