How sophisticated are wine drinkers in Asia?
Wine producers from Spain, Italy, South Africa and other wine producing regions of the world often come to us for market entry consulting and for finding distribution partners in Asia. Most of these firms are often interested in the newer wine consumption hotspots such as China, India, Korea and Vietnam. Japan on the other hand is already an established market for wine imports into Asia. Therefore, as one can imagine, this becomes a classic case of cross-cultural marketing management as wine tastes and sophistication in Asia are constantly evolving and wine suppliers have to accordingly adapt their messaging and initiatives to address evolving consumer preferences.
The last few years have seen wine tastes evolve in Asia thanks to more sophisticated products landing in the market and the presence of niche segments like organic wines, sherry and more expensive boutique wineries.
The trouble with the rising demand for wine in the aforementioned newer markets in Asia is that most of the distributors and wholesalers are fundamentally price-driven due to the high import duties unless there is an FTA in place between the wine exporting country and the country in Asia where the importer is based. This leads to an overwhelming dominance of cheaper wines in the market which are then masquerading as expensive wines, especially on the retail side, thanks to lack of sufficient consumer awareness about good wines and distributors trying to make a pretty penny peddling cheap wines as good wines. The trade side, comprising HORECA, is a shade better as the better hotels and restaurants have reputations to protect and therefore have to stock products that are of a reasonable quality.
That said, the last few years have seen wine tastes evolve in Asia thanks to more sophisticated products landing in the market and the presence of niche segments like organic wines, sherry and more expensive boutique wineries doing market visits and holding tasting sessions as well as food and wine pairing sessions. And markets like India have also witnessed local wineries in India importing wines in bulk from overseas and blending with their own produce to creating blends which are then branded and sold locally. All in all, exciting times ahead for the wine sector in Asia.
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