Louis Zheng (1984.04.20) is a Chinese young businessman who went to Australia to study Hotel Management when he was only 17 years old. From then on, his life has been divided between China and Australia, and around 5 years ago he started to focus on the Wine World. He is, therefore, a person with a deep knowledge of the Wine field in China, thanks to his experience and effort he has achieved important results in his career.
1. Mr. Zheng, you’ve been working between China and Australia for more than five years, importing Australian wines into the Chinese market. How has the foreign wine market evolved in China?
The evolution of foreign wine, not only Australian, has been huge. According to our company’s statistics of the last 5 years, during the peak period and only in Jiangsu province, we sold around 280.000 bottles a year.
Obviously, with the political changes in the country, the whole market is in constant change. However, we can still assert that the great consumption market is still there, and that the potential consumer profile is younger and younger. In our market research studies, young people born after the 80’s have more interest for wine and it is precisely this population group that has a dominant role in our society. Therefore, I believe foreign wines will go the same way “Baijiu” did (Chinese liquor): they will become trendy.
2. Which are the wine producing countries with the strongest presence in China?
The foreign wines with a strongest presence in China come from: France, Italy, Australia, Chile, South Africa and Argentina. Nowadays, wines from new countries (meaning countries where historically wine wasn’t produced, like Canada, USA, China, Chile, Argentina, etc), also represent an important part of the market.
3. Do you think that Chinese taste is different than Australian taste or western in general? What kind of wine does the Chinese client ask for?
Yes, there is a difference. Very few Chinese are able to “appreciate” a certain type of wine. Most of them will differentiate a type of wine based on its color (more or less intense),its smell (more or less aromatic), or its flavor (more or less strong). As long as it is not tasteless, everyone can drink it. But, in fact, every type of wine requires a reasonably long adaptation process to the palate.
From a “macro” perspective, we could say that targeting a sole social class will cease in time progressively, mainly due to what we mentioned before about a younger generation being the main consuming group. Nevertheless, we still need to go through a changing process, because of China’s huge population, high labor competition and the fact that there’s still a clear social stratification. Therefore, in the short run, we still need to put a lot of emphasis in the so called “middle class” which is very important in terms of consumption.
5. Personally, what do you think about local wines? Are there “good wines” in China? Why do you think foreign wines are more appreciated? Is it a sophistication matter, just because they are foreign products, or there is really a quality difference?
There are good wines in China, of course, for example in Xinjiang. Foreign wines are highly value due to several factors: The soil quality where the grapes grow in Xinjiang or the western regions of China is not very high. Therefore, the taste of those wines isn’t as good as the taste of those produced abroad. Moreover, lately the Chinese consumer has many doubts about the quality and safety of local food and beverages, which clearly benefits imported products.
6. You have worked in the wine sector your whole life. If it had not been wine, what other product would you have liked to commercialize in China?
I would have probably chosen products related to health care, since our generation gives more and more importance to being healthy and fit.
7. Let’s talk about Australia. What do you Chinese like about this country?
Maybe what Chinese like the most about Australia is its nature and its islands, with only 200 years of history. A territory that has never had wars or epidemics.
About wine: what will make the Chinese consumer buy an Australian wine instead of a French, Italian or Spanish one?
Chinese consumers’ palate is more used to new producing countries, because of its specific aroma and taste. Therefore, when they drink wine from that country, they will immediately recognize it and like it. Nevertheless, every time more and more experts or people with an interest for wine want to try wines from historically wine countries, such as France, Italy and Spain, because they have a longer-lasting taste and a wonderful aftertaste!
In fact, I just recently started discovering those wines from historically wine producing countries. Up until now I was just familiar with Australian wines, and I am more used to wines of that country. But nowadays, in China, it is much easier to find wines of other countries. And even though I have never tried Catalan or Spanish wines, I’m really looking forward to it!
9. Have the new governmental restrictive policies regarding the expenses of senior officials affected wine consumption levels? What impact has that had on your business?
They’ve had a relevant impact on our company. However, we all agree that the way our government was functioning was not healthy and could not last long. Therefore, we think it is a very good opportunity, since all those companies that had the government as their main client are now gone, which means there’s more market for us to reach.
10. Is there still room for new foreign wines in the Chinese market? Would you say there’s market saturation?
There’s absolutely no saturation at all! There’s still a lot of room for new products. We have to believe in the education those generations born in the 80’s and 90’s are receiving, and in their capacity to accept and appreciate new products.
11. What does a foreign wine need to attract the Chinese consumer?
It needs to have all that represents a special taste and aroma, a beautiful name as well as innovative label and bottle.
Generally I would not say it is very complicated. You just need someone or a broker who is used to the customs procedures. The customs inspection process at the moment of the importation is the most complicated I would say. Especially in summer, since if the process takes a long time, this could affect the quality of the wine.
Jiangsu Hebe Bay Wine Trading Co., Ltd is the company where Louis Zheng is the Executive Director. Its head Office, store and warehouse are located in the city of Nanjing (Jiangsu Province). They also have an office and a warehouse in SuBei and SuNan, and they have partner warehouses in the port of Shanghai. Currently, the company has 50 workers. For further information about HEBE BAY, please visit their official webpage.