Is New Zealand becoming too reliant on China as a customer for primary product exports?
Compare that with well over 50 Australian wineries taking part, in a stand that couldn’t fail to be noticed as it took up one side of the Shanghai Expo Centre’s halls.
Marius Berlemann, Global Head Wines and Spirits ProWein hopes New Zealand will take future opportunities to take part in what has become the largest wine show in mainland China.
“The surrounding countries to New Zealand, you will see have a large presence, bigger than ever before. Every country is enlarging and I hope New Zealand will follow the same track.”
One of the biggest issues facing New Zealand wineries, is that unlike their Australian counterparts, they have to pay for themselves to attend. The Australians, hard on the back of reaching AUS$1 billion worth of wine exports to China, had their large stand funded by their government. As did a number of other countries represented at ProWine China, as the world competes to get their wine in front of some of the country’s 1.4 billion people.
In terms of creating a show that provides a footprint into the Chinese market, Berlemann says many producers attending ProWine may already have a distributor, but are looking to expand their market presence.
“It is not about coming to Shanghai and finding one importer, because there are hardly any importers which are able to cover the entire country. So you might want to finish the show with four importers, to expand your market.”
As with ProWein Dusseldorf, the China show is limited to trade visitors, not consumers. Berlemann says that up to 60 percent of the 18,000 visitors in 2018, came from mainland China, not Shanghai where the event was held.
New Zealand based Babich Wines have been in the Chinese market for the past 15 years, and in 2018 opened their first office and warehouse in Shanghai. John Lang, sales and marketing director says it was a natural follow on to take part in ProWine China.
“It has been a long build, a journey where we have been learning along the way. This year marks a special year for us, as we have committed to an office and a team and an official company based out of Shanghai.”
Lang says China is unlike any other market in the world and anyone planning to enter it, has to leave their pre-conceived ideas at home.
“What works in other countries isn’t likely to work in China,” he says. “The channels are different, the buying behaviour is different, what the consumer looks for is different. That is why I look at it as a long-term learn, because you have to have a model that you can change and adapt.”
He says in traditional markets the path to the consumer is through a distributor, who then sells to traditional channels.
“Come to China though and some of our biggest customers are putting wine into corporate channels or private channels or gifting channels. People may think that is not a serious channel but actually it is the main channel, so that is an adjustment of thinking. Your brand may not be on a wine list in a hotel and you think you are not doing well in China. But actually you have sold a container of high end wine into a huge corporate, who are using it for Chinese New Year gifts and that kind of thing. That is an amazing business to get. It is hard to sustain, so you always have to be open to new business and be prepared to chase it and service it.”
The two other New Zealand companies present at ProWine China were Vinultra and Te Awanga who were unfortunately listed in the programme as coming from China.