The Market

Hong Kong presents a unique marketplace for winemakers. With a zero tax environment recently created for the wine market and a range of positive initiatives being implemented by the Hong Kong Trade Development Council, the market is evolving into a world hub for wine.

 

The growth is so much so that China is predicted to become the second largest wine consumer globally in the next five years. Currently, the US is the largest with 3.7 billion bottles per year, whereas China including Hong Kong consumes 1.9 billion; however this is forecasted to increase by a further billion by 2015.* With the industry growing from strength to strength, a medal from the Hong Kong International Wine and Spirit Competition is a great way to help you stand out from the crowd.

 

COMPETITION DIRECTOR DEBRA MEIBURG MW'S INSIGHTS INTO THE HONG KONG MARKET


Understanding Asia, by Debra Meiburg MW

Local Drinkers: Closing the Gap in Hong Kong

As anyone with a basic understanding of Hong Kong demographics can tell you, trying to build a sustainable wine market on expats is like designing a children’s wear line that only fits one year-olds- there’s a built-in limit to the consumer base, and it’s an ever-changing one at that.  

Expats make up only 6% of the population of Hong Kong, so the person who truly cracks the nut will be the one who puts in the time to attract local consumers.  
Luckily, interest within the local community (not just internationalized Chinese) is really picking up.  In our survey in Debra Meiburg’s Guide to the Hong Kong Wine Trade book, 15% of Chinese said they drink every day (59% of Chinese drink a few times a week) as compared to 29% of non-Chinese who drink daily (and 86% a few times a week); while this difference still seems quite substantial, Chinese consumption is clearly catching up.  
 
This is of course much higher than the average for the population (which the Hong Kong government put at 1.6L/year - meaning a large portion of the population doesn’t drink at all). However, these numbers should be taken as a very positive sign that wine culture is being adopted universally. My advice to winemakers? Keep trying to reach local consumers, they are increasingly interested.  
 
Understanding Asia, by Debra Meiburg MW
 
 
Unlike most other parts of the world where retailer, importer and wholesaler function separately, in Hong Kong they are usually different hats on the head of the same company (or person). Confused? Here’s general overview of the retail sector, gleaned from our recent book Debra Meiburg’s Guide to the Hong Kong Wine Trade:
 
Until recently, street level retail had been dominated by one name: Watson’s. But more than a few challengers have sprung up of late. Although many are generically Bordeaux and offer little diversity or vibrancy, it seems a “new breed” of modern retail spaces are beginning to make their mark. 
 
Hybrids: However, there is an increasingly thick stratum of wine shops that break the mold without breaking the bank, often by sweetening the pot with educational spaces, technophile trappings or well-stocked enomatic machines. 
 
Private merchants: Many businesses – particularly those in fine wine – settle for something in between, recasting 38th floor offices in industrial buildings as “showrooms,” often complete luxurious stemware and leather sofas.  These spaces are often used for private events, and generally frequented by more mature consumers, or at least those with a mature budget.  
 
Supermarkets are seen as territory for “non-serious” wine buyers. My advice to winemakers, only play this game if you’ve got the volume and sufficiently low ex-cellar prices to compete (bearing in mind margins don’t differ too much from normal retail) and don’t forget to build in a large marketing budget (to support price promotions, etc.).
 
Understanding Asia, by Debra Meiburg MW 
 
 
Chinese food and wine matching is a particularly well-worn subject, with wineries telling us time and again that their wine is perfect with “Asian food.” But, it is essential to know at least a little bit about what you are saying if you’re claiming this! 
 
Three most important points to acknowledge are this: 1. All Chinese food is not the same, and it certainly isn’t all spicy.  2. Cantonese food, the food of Hong Kong, is generally mild-flavored, emphasizing delicate seafood dishes, and it only includes a few spicy elements, mostly condiments.  3. The critical thing is not the protein in the dish, but the way it is prepared – fish, usually pale and delicate in western Europe, can be drenched in soy, garlic and scallions in Hong Kong, completely altering its flavor profile.  
 
More people are actually choosing to drink their wine with Chinese food as opposed to saving it for occasions when they dine out in western restaurants.  Around half of those surveyed in Debra Meiburg’s Guide to the Hong Kong Wine Trade say they are drinking wine with Chinese food a few times a month, with 23% doing so a few times a week or more.  
 
My advice to winemakers? Chinese food and wine is gaining traction. Medals matter in this market, so enter wines in the Cathay Pacific Hong Kong IWSC Food & Wine pairing categories for a “point of difference”.