OPINION: When it comes to hedging between the world's two superpowers, the US and China, no one does it better than the New Zealand Government.
How has the China market changed over the past decade?
I see the biggest impact from the rise of e-commerce and social media. Influencers on WeChat, Douyin (TikTok) and multiple other platforms have made wine visible and aspirational, while the massive growth of e-commerce has allowed more and more consumers direct access to wine. This has increased market transparency, helping the entire supply chain deveop and mature.
Throughout the past decade, New Zealand exports to China shifted from mostly white to mostly red, with particular emphasis on Hawke's Bay, and now back to mostly white, led by flagship variety Sauvignon Blanc. Our price per litre remains consistently high - typically $12 to $14 Free on Board (FOB) - with a successfully maintained premium position in the market.
And over the past 18 months?
The main change in China has been the rise and fall of Australian wine. This seismic shift offers an opportunity for wine and other beverages, with Chinese import stats to May 21 showing all importing countries increasing their share. Of course, Covid-19 looms large; It initially dampened China, but it has since rebounded, primarily driven by closed borders and surging domestic consumer spend. On the other hand, Hong Kong, Singapore and Japan all suffered ongoing restrictions and lockdowns, making their recovery more fragmented.
What's the potential in the market?
That’s the $100 million question! New Zealand exports to Asia have held steady over the past few years at approximately $100m to all markets in the region, with an average $/L of $11.50 FOB. However, each market has its own dynamic; for example, Hong Kong had fallen back, but the past 18 months saw surging demand for New Zealand wine for at-home consumption, with exports up over 35 percent. Looking to the future, New Zealand Winegrowers (NZW) is currently undertaking a ‘deep dive’ into the China market to assess how NZW can best add value to members targeting this region and support sustainable growth. This piece of strategy work will also help guide NZW resourcing decisions in the region.
What is the Pure Discovery Roadshow?
Pure Discovery is a series of events each May in China’s Tier-1 cities (Shanghai, Beijing and either Guangzhou or Shenzhen), that are open to participation from all wineries in the market or seeking representation. This year’s events saw over 1,200 trade and consumer attendees, with 45 different brands participating. The New Zealand vibe is transported to China via master classes by China-based Masters of Wine (MW), complementary honey, tea and water exhibitors, New Zealand-themed canapes and light, airy venues, plus add-on market insights by New Zealand Trade and Enterprise (NZTE) and lifestyle content by Tourism New Zealand. A fixture of the NZW events calendar for a decade, we look forward to welcoming winery principals back to the market for the 2022 edition.
What are some of your best memories in this role?
Travelling to far-flung places and attending incredible events, both in Asia and New Zealand, has been a real highlight. Personal favourites include Pinot 2017 and a seminar in Kyoto, Japan. Hosting activities in Taiwan, Korea, Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, as well as Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan and China, broadened my horizons and understanding of the region.
Bringing visitors to New Zealand is always a highlight. In my time with NZW, we have brought over 100 key influencers, many in partnership with NZTE, to experience the beauty of New Zealand.
However, my enduring memories are of the winemakers, owners, growers, sellers - all working together to build the reputation of New Zealand wine. People are so willing to step up and support every activity, with a friendly non-competitive ‘pull-together’ attitude that’s astonishing.
I have made so many friends among the wine industry, and hope to see you back in my home United Kingdom market.