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China’s Wine Market Consumer Preferences (1): Wine Category, Drinking Occasion and Price

Mainland consumers are becoming increasingly demanding of food and drink as their income and spending power increase. As luxury and lifestyle become more important to mainlanders, demand for wine has been steadily growing in recent years, with increases registered in both the value and volume of wine imports. According to China’s customs statistics, the value of wine imports increased by 12.6% a year on average between 2011 and 2017, rising from RMB9.28 billion to RMB18.87 billion. In terms of volume, wine imports increased from 370 million litres in 2011 to 750 million litres in 2017, representing an average annual increase of 12.8%.

According to a consumer survey commissioned by HKTDC Research on mainland wine consumption [1], mainland consumers prefer red wine, and the occasions for consumption are many, with drinking at home accounting for a large percentage. White wine, rosé and champagne/sparkling wine are mostly consumed at banquets and social gatherings. Mainland consumers also buy wine as gift, usually for friends and relatives and occasionally for business contacts.

In the past, wine drinking was regarded as being for social occasions and an embodiment of personal lifestyle, but is seen more as a casual drink these days. The survey found that, overall, “health” (77%) was cited as the primary reason for drinking wine. The percentage is highest among those aged 31-40 (84%). Among female respondents, 61% said that they drink wine for “beauty” reasons as opposed to only 28% for their male counterparts.

The mainland wine market is growing in leaps and bounds and there are signs of demand segmentation. Hong Kong wine dealers should be quick to identify consumer demand in order to successfully capture the mainland market.

Clear Preference for Red Wine

The present survey divides wine into four categories, namely, red wine, white wine, rosé and champagne/sparkling wine, with red wine favoured by most respondents. Overall, 96% of respondents have bought red wine and 40% have bought white wine in the past six months. The proportions of respondents from Guangzhou (50%) and Chengdu (43%) buying champagne/sparkling wine are significantly higher than the overall figure of 37%. There are also more respondents buying champagne/sparkling wine than white wine in these two cities. According to the survey, the overall proportion of respondents buying rosé (23%) is lowest, but that of respondents from Harbin buying this type of wine (33%) is significantly higher than those from other cities, indicating that people in different cities have different wine preferences.

Table: Category of Wine Purchased in the Past Six Months, by City
Table: Category of Wine Purchased in the Past Six Months, by City
 

There is no obvious difference between different groups in their preference for red wine and white wine, although the survey found more young respondents buying champagne/sparkling wine than respondents in the older age groups. In the past six months, the proportion of respondents of the 20-30 age group buying champagne/sparkling wine (46%) is markedly higher than that for the 51-60 age group (28%).

Respondents’ monthly household income also influences wine purchase patterns. For example, the percentage of respondents with a monthly household income of RMB20,000 or more who had bought white wine, champagne/sparkling wine and rosé was much higher than that of respondents with a monthly household income of RMB8,000-14,999.

Table: Category of Wine Purchased in the Past Six Months, by Respondent Group
Table: Category of Wine Purchased in the Past Six Months, by Respondent Group
 

Growing Demand for Wine

The survey found a growing number of mainland consumers buying wine in recent years. Only 21% of respondents said that their purchase frequency had not increased in the past two to three years. In other words, 79% of respondents are buying wine more frequently. Among different categories of wine, purchase frequency growth for red wine (63%) is markedly higher than for champagne/sparkling wine (17%) and white wine (16%).

85% of respondents from Wuhan said that their purchase frequency had increased in the past two to three years, the highest percentage among the surveyed cities. The percentage was lowest for Shanghai, with only 71% of respondents saying that their purchase frequency had increased. This is probably because the wine market is more mature in Shanghai than other cities, hence there is a lower growth rate in purchase frequency.

It is noteworthy that respondents from Harbin show a bigger increase in purchase frequency for red wine (70%) than the overall average of 63%. The increase in purchase frequency for rosé for respondents from Harbin (16%) and Yantai (16%) is also greater than the overall average of 11%. The percentage of respondents from Harbin (33%) and Yantai (28%) buying rosé in the past six months is also considerably higher than for other surveyed cities, suggesting that consumers in these two cities have more of a taste for rosé than consumers in other cities.

Table: Purchase Frequency Growth, by City
Table: Purchase Frequency Growth, by City
 

Respondents in the 20-30 age group show a higher purchase frequency growth for champagne/sparkling wine (22%) than the overall average (17%). The purchase frequency growth for rosé among respondents in the 41-50 age group (15%) is also markedly higher than that of respondents from other age groups. There is also a difference in the purchase frequency growth for wine for consumers of different age groups.

82% of respondents with a monthly household income of RMB20,000 or more have increased their wine purchase frequency compared with two to three years ago. This percentage is higher than that of respondents with a monthly household income of RMB8,000-14,999 (76%), indicating that the higher the monthly household income, the higher the purchase frequency growth rate.

Table: Purchase Frequency Growth, by Respondent Group
Table: Purchase Frequency Growth, by Respondent Group
 

Red Wine the Main Category Consumed

In this survey, respondents were only allowed to choose one category as the most often consumed wine. Red wine was chosen by most respondents (85%), followed by white wine (6%) and champagne/sparkling wine (6%). Only 4% of respondents chose rosé. This is probably because red wine has a longer market presence on the mainland and is therefore more prevalent and popular. There is not much difference between respondents’ choice in the surveyed cities. Red wine is the top choice of respondents of different groups regardless of gender, age and income.

Table: Main Category of Wine Consumed by Respondents, by City
Table: Main Category of Wine Consumed by Respondents, by City
 
Table: Main Category of Wine Consumed, by Respondent Group
Table: Main Category of Wine Consumed, by Respondent Group
 

Health Factor Boosts Wine Consumption

Mainland consumers’ attitude towards drinking wine has changed in recent years. In the past people mainly drank wine on business or social occasions, now it is seen as being good for health. “Red wine is healthier because it has anti-oxidant substances which may prevent cardiovascular diseases” and “can help cells fight oxidisation and is good for health” are some of the reasons given by participants in focus group discussions.

The questionnaire survey found that mainland consumers drink wine mainly for health reasons and not because it is trendy. 77% of respondents said that they drink wine for health reasons, 53% said that their preference has changed and they have grown to like the taste of wine. 51% of respondents say they drink wine to socialise, while only 26% say they drink because it is a trendy thing to do.

Table: Main Reason for Drinking Wine, by City
Table: Main Reason for Drinking Wine, by City
 

Many media reports say that wine has anti-aging and anti-oxidising benefits and can help people sleep better. Some women drink wine for beauty reasons. The survey found that 61% of female respondents say they drink wine mainly for beauty, a percentage markedly higher than for male respondents (28%). On the other hand, 55% of male respondents say they drink wine mainly because it is an embodiment of quality life. This percentage is higher than the 42% for female respondents.

84% of respondents in the 31-40 age group say they drink wine mainly for health reasons, a percentage markedly higher than that for other age groups. 82% of respondents with a monthly household income of RMB8,000-14,999 say they drink wine mainly for health reasons, a percentage considerably higher than that for respondents with a monthly household income of RMB20,000 or more (72%).

Table: Main Reason for Drinking Wine, by Respondent Group
Table: Main Reason for Drinking Wine, by Respondent Group
 

Occasions for Drinking Wine

Red wine is consumed on more occasions than any other category, with over 50% of respondents saying that they drink red wine at home, at social gatherings and when dining out. White wine is mainly consumed at banquets (31%), while champagne/sparkling wine (33%) and rosé (21%) are mainly consumed at social gatherings. 50% of respondents say they seldom drink rosé, probably because the mainland market is dominated by red wine and consumers hardly notice the presence of rosé.

Table: Occasions for Drinking Wine
Table: Occasions for Drinking Wine
 

Average Price Paid for Wine

Respondents are becoming more rational when buying wine for own consumption. The majority of respondents (47%) pay RMB101-200 for a bottle. Overall, the average price paid by respondents for a bottle of wine for their own consumption is RMB193.6. The average price paid for a bottle of wine for own consumption is higher among respondents from Guangzhou (RMB205.8), Harbin (RMB204.8) and Yantai (RMB202.1), all exceeding RMB200 a bottle.

Table: Average Price of Wine Bought for Own Consumption, by City
Table: Average Price of Wine Bought for Own Consumption, by City
 

The survey found that the average price paid by female respondents (RMB196.3) for their own consumption is slightly higher than that paid by male respondents (RMB191.0). Younger respondents are more receptive to wine of higher prices, because the average price they pay for a bottle of wine for their own consumption (RMB205.1) is higher than that paid by other groups. As monthly household income increases, the price respondents are willing to pay to buy wine for own consumption also goes up.

Table: Average Price of Wine Bought for Own Consumption, by Respondent Group
Table: Average Price of Wine Bought for Own Consumption, by Respondent Group
 

Gift Market for Wine

The wine culture is becoming increasingly popular on the mainland and consumers also buy wine as gift. Overall, only 14% of respondents say they have never bought wine as gift, meaning 86% of respondents have done so. According to the survey, most respondents (75%) say they have bought wine as gift for relatives and friends on festive occasions, followed by buying wine for friends and relatives at ordinary times (34%) and buying wine for business contacts on festive occasions (33%).

Respondents from Suzhou (82%), Yantai (82%) and Guangzhou (80%) say that they have bought wine as gift for friends and relatives on festive occasions, slightly higher than the overall average of 75%. The percentage of respondents from Yantai (45%) and Harbin (44%) buying wine as gift for friends and relatives at ordinary times is also higher than the overall average of 34%.

42% of respondents from Guangzhou say they have bought wine as gift for business contacts on festive occasions, which is significantly higher than the overall average of 33%. 34% of respondents from Yantai say they have bought wine as gift for business contacts at ordinary times, which is much higher than the overall average of 24%. Respondents from Yantai show a markedly higher percentage than the overall figure when it comes to buying wine as gift for friends and relatives and for business contacts.

Table: Buying Wine as Gift, by City
Table: Buying Wine as Gift, by City
 

A higher percentage of younger respondents have bought wine as gift than older respondents. For example, 89% of respondents in the 20-30 age group have bought wine as gift, while only 83% of respondents in the 51-60 age group have done so. The percentage of respondents buying wine as gift also increases with monthly household income. 89% of respondents with a monthly household income of RMB20,000 or more say they have bought wine as gift, while only 83% of the group with a monthly household income of RMB8,000-14,999 have done so.

Table: Buying Wine as Gift, by Respondent Group
Table: Buying Wine as Gift, by Respondent Group
 

Practical Tips for Hong Kong Companies

The present survey divides wine into four categories, namely, red wine, white wine, rosé and champagne/sparkling wine, among which red wine is the most popular and leads in purchase percentage and frequency. This is probably because red wine is suitable for most occasions and people mainly drink red wine at home and at social gatherings.

By comparison, champagne/sparkling wine remains a niche sector on the mainland. The survey found more young respondents buying champagne/sparkling wine than older people. The percentage of respondents with a higher monthly household income buying rosé is also considerably higher than for other groups. For these two categories, Hong Kong companies should be able to achieve better results by focusing their resources on the two target groups for precision marketing.

Mainland consumers’ attitudes to spending on wine has changed. In the past wine was mainly consumed on business occasions, whereas today consumers think that drinking wine is good for health. When conducting publicity, Hong Kong companies may focus on consumers’ health, wellness and beauty concerns. On the other hand, mainland consumers also like to buy wine as gift. Hong Kong companies may launch special gift packaging on festive occasions to attract customers.

 

 

Appendix

Survey Background

Mainland consumers are seeking a more elegant lifestyle and seeking the finer things in life as their income and purchasing power increase. They are also becoming better informed and like to taste good food and wine from around the world. For this reason, demand for wine has soared in recent years.

HKTDC Research conducted a survey on China’s wine market in the fourth quarter of 2017 in the hope of gaining a better understanding of consumers’ spending mentality, drinking habits and purchase preferences, in order to provide a useful reference for Hong Kong companies interested in venturing into the mainland market.

There are different kinds of wine, but the present survey mainly covers four categories, namely, red wine, white wine, rosé and champagne/sparkling wine.

Methodology

The survey was carried out in October 2017 in 10 mainland cities where a total of 2,400 consumers were polled by online questionnaire. Before conducting the questionnaire survey, six consumer focus group discussions were held in Shanghai, Wuhan and Chengdu (two in each city). The objective of the focus group discussions was to take an in-depth look at the spending mentality of mainland consumers by way of qualitative analysis.

Table: Design of Focus Groups
Table: Design of Focus Groups
 
Table: Design of Online Questionnaire Survey
Table: Design of Online Questionnaire Survey
 
Table: Average Monthly Household Income of Respondents (RMB)
Table: Average Monthly Household Income of Respondents (RMB)
 
Table: Marital Status of Respondents, by City (%)
Table: Marital Status of Respondents, by City (%)
 
Table: Educational Level of Respondents, by City (%)
Table: Educational Level of Respondents, by City (%)
 
Table: Occupation of Respondents, by City (%)
Table: Occupation of Respondents, by City (%)
 

[1]  See Appendix for details of the survey.

Content provided by Picture: Alice Tsang
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