Thinking about the Brooklyn Beer we had at Vargas’ Bistro Burger last week has got us thinking about the alcohol market in China. With fancy bars and designer restaurants offering all sorts of international beers, it’s getting easier and easier to find your favorite in the ever-increasing wine list. But who doesn’t remember the days when Budweiser was considered exotic, and the Qingdao Beer Festival a real representation of international beer? So we took a look into the expansion of the alcohol market in china and found some interesting things.
Since tariffs have been dropped, foreign food imports have grown by 15% for five consecutive years. And with that increase has come a taste for foreign booze. Of course, we all know about the Chivas and green tea phenomenon (though you probably didn’t know that the record for monthly sales of Chivas is held by a bar in Hangzhou, which sold 9,000 bottles in one month). But Chivas aside, China has become the world’s largest beer market, which is estimated to be a 30 billion dollar industry on the rise. And to top it off with a healthy foam, apparently Snow brand beer is now the world’s second biggest selling beer brand by volume, usurping both Bud and Bud Light on its way to the top. That’s a lot of Snow!
And with this international exchange of booze, it’s not surprising that China’s doing it’s best to reciprocate. According to the Chinese Market Research Group, there’s a good amount of effort going into expanding Chinese alcohol into foreign markets. Chinese beers, of course, are pretty easy to come across around the world, and we can attest that Tsingtao import is actually a good beer. And of course, traditional Chinese liquors like baijiu and huangjiu are easily marketed to Chinese emigrant populations worldwide. We have our doubts, however, that they could ever catch on in foreign markets: given a western market, it’s hard to imagine many foreigners would go for baijiu. Another big flaw in the export plan centers on international regulations requiring companies to clearly list the ingredients they use on their labels. Chinese companies prefer to keep their “secret ingredients” secret, but we have a feeling that if you really knew was was in Er Guo Tou, you would probably not want to drink it even more than you already don’t want to drink it.
But maybe that’s because foreigners don’t quite understand the subtle complexities of Chinese liquor. If you’re a booze aficionado, and really want to train yourself in the art of enjoying baijiu, here’s a pretty interesting article with all you’d ever need to know on the subject.
Update: Proper credit is due to enoVate, a great blog on marketing and media in China, whose twitter links made this article possible. Thanks, guys!
Photo by darley_ra @ flickr