As the largest market for alcoholic beverages, China remains a challenging playing field for foreign players. Due to rapid changing consumer preferences, it is critical to keep up with the latest trends to harness the potential of the market.
Key Trends of Chinese Consumers’ Changing Preferences
Chinese Consumers are Upgrading Their Lifestyle Purchases
The first noticeable trend is that Chinese consumers are acquiring a taste for premium alcoholic beverages with complex flavors for their high-grade quality and better taste. This is because the growing middle class are spending more to upgrade their lifestyles, on premium products rather than mass-market products, according to Credit Suisse Research Institute.
Craft beer is gaining popularity in well-developed urban areas. There is also a burgeoning group of wine enthusiasts in China, mostly affluent young Chinese with an appetite for imported, fine wines.
Millennials Driving up Consumption
The well-educated, adventurous and outward-looking Chinese millennials are eager to try new products. Unlike their older counterparts, who prefer established luxury alcoholic drinks such as burgundy and Bordeaux for gift-giving purposes, the millennials show preference towards alcohol from lesser-known brands and regions and make more purchases for personal consumption. This younger generation sees imported, novel alcoholic drinks as fashionable and individualistic—a way to express themselves.
Enthusiasm for E-Commerce
There is an increasing popularity for purchasing alcoholic beverages online, driven by ease of access, cheaper prices, and fast delivery. Many importers in the industry are taking advantage of China’s ubiquitous, well-developed e-commerce infrastructure to lure the new generation of Chinese consumers.
Another important trend in e-commerce in China is that the young Chinese consumers conduct thorough research online before making purchasing decisions. According to Wine Intelligence, 62% of the imported wine consumers in China look up information and reviews online before making purchases. They are strongly influenced by their peers on social media instead of blindly following celebrities or KOLs, because they find their peers’ recommendations are more genuine.
Increasing International Travel
As outbound tourism grows in China, with 135 million outbound tourists in 2016, it has become a new way for young Chinese consumers to discover new alcoholic beverages. These travelers visit restaurants, bars, or vineyards to discover new products or brands, and then tell their friends back home about them.
Closing Thoughts on Evolving Preferences of Chinese Consumers
As the Chinese market evolves, Chinese consumers tastes are maturing as well. Imported alcoholic beverages will continue to draw attention. However, in order to succeed in the highly competitive Chinese market, it is important to pay attention to the evolving preferences of Chinese consumers—focusing on the premium market, tailoring messages to millennial Chinese, adopting an effective online strategy, and attracting Chinese travelers.