Workshops provide early glimpse of exciting new China research

The first INseries workshops, presented by GWRDC in June, served its attendees a brief but intriguing taste of two major new research projects wholly focused on the Chinese wine market.

More than 150 participants attended the five breakfast workshops, held in McLaren Vale, the Barossa Valley, the Hunter Valley, the Yarra Valley and Margaret River.

The workshops presented the first set of data from the projects, which are being led by Professor Larry Lockshin from the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute for Marketing Science at the University of South Australia.

“It’s still very early days for both projects, having just started this year – but it was really interesting to see how the results planted the seed for much broader discussions at the workshops,” Professor Lockshin said, who presented at the workshops.

“There was a good mix of wineries who are just thinking about entering China, others who had been there four or five years and even a few who had been there for around 20 years.

“Ultimately, this work we’re doing now will provide an opportunity for wineries to take stock and see if the efforts and market activities occurring now are having the effect they want.”

The largest of the two projects will track attitudes and behaviours of consumers towards Australian wines in China over three years.

The results of the first survey of 1000 consumers confirmed some expected perceptions about China as a new and engaged market but also offered some surprising insights, Professor Lockshin said.

“We expected to see Chinese consumers volunteer Cabernet Sauvignon and Bordeaux as the variety they had last consumed or a region they recognise, given France’s position as a traditional wine-producing nation and the associations with luxury and prestige,” he said.

“What is surprising is the level of consumption in the home, which will have implications for the off-premise market.”

The project will run six surveys over three years, targeting 1000 Chinese wine drinkers, aged between 30 and 45. The surveys seek to identify the attitudes and behaviours of consumers towards Australian wines, regions and grape varieties in China’s on-premise, off-premise and online wine markets.

The second research project will host three major tastings, with 100 people in three different cities in China.

As part of the project, researchers will have an opportunity to test Chinese wine consumers’ preference for Chinese wine descriptors compared with more Western language descriptors.

“Most ordinary wine consumers don’t drink their wine blind, they have information at hand such as the front and back labels that help inform their opinion of wines,” he said.

“Chinese consumers don’t describe wine in the same terms as Western consumers. While we might describe wines as having blackberry or eucalypt characters, they might describe a red wine as presenting characters of yangmei – a sweet fruit native to Asia – or fresh wolfberry.

“We would like to find out what descriptors are preferred, and whether changing or using this information could change consumer perceptions of the wine.”

Dig + Fish Managing Director Angie Bradbury joined Professor Lockshin at the workshops, talking to participants about the importance of strong, authentic brand stories and sound China-focussed export and marketing plans.

“China has a unique culture and you cannot extrapolate Western thinking to that market. The methods you have used to conduct business and sell your wine in other markets are not going to apply in China. Ultimately companies need to visit China. Focus on one city or region initially and learn the nuances of building relationships and understand how the market operates,” Ms Bradbury told participants.

More workshops will be held over the next year, as part of the GWRDC’s free INseries program with topics spanning viticulture, winemaking and wine marketing.

The first China Insights workshop in McLaren Vale was filmed and will be made available in the coming weeks to those who could not attend.

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