Western Spirits Gain, As Baijiu Remains King
While Chinese affection for baiju continues to grow unabated, imported alcohol is increasingly finding a place in the drinking glasses of Chinese consumers, according to data from JD.com, China’s largest retailer.
Western spirits still make up only a small portion of the total Chinese market for alcohol, which is dominated by baijiu—a clear, strong, grain liquor that is used to toast occasions large and small across all parts of Chinese society. But the category is growing at a fast clip as more choices become more broadly available and as “cocktail culture” begins to gain in popularity.
Bacardi rum, for example, which announced last year that JD would become its exclusive e-commerce partner for its portfolio of brands in China, saw GMV rise by some 400% in the first half of this year compared with the same period in 2016.
In general, western spirits are growing at a faster clip than baijiu, JD data shows. The trend comes as curious drinkers in China’s cities find new western alcohol choices in restaurants, bars and clubs, and have difficulty finding the brands like Bacardi, Grey Goose vodka, Dewar’s or Johnnie Walker Scotch whiskeys or Remy Martin, in local shops. Those consumers have increasingly turned to their smart phones or computers to place their orders on JD.com, knowing they’ll find a wide range of only authentic brands, and that they’ll receive their purchases quickly and packed securely, handled every step of the way by a JD employee.
To address that growing demand from more than a quarter-billion customers, JD.com has launched marketing efforts to help educate them on available options.
Meanwhile, brands are working with JD.com to introduce new products to a receptive audience. Bacardi recently launched a new alcoholic drink exclusively on JD; distilled from Chinese tea leaves and produced in France, the new “Tang” drink combines multiple traditions and flavors in a way that is attracting consumer interest.
China continues to have a growing thirst for quality imported wine as well. JD’s customers bought some 20 million bottles of imported wine in the first half of 2017, with France leading the pack, followed closed by imports from Australia and Chile.