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The Rise of China’s Young Female Wine Drinkers

30/01/2019

These younger female wine drinkers are much more likely to experiment with different wine brands from wine regions around the world.

Since 2012, the demographics of China’s wine-drinking population have shifted significantly. A major factor has been the rise of the young millennial wine drinker, and specifically, the rise of the young female wine drinker. These younger wine drinkers are much more likely to experiment with different wine brands from wine regions around the world, and in the case of female wine drinkers, are more likely to consider sweeter, fruitier wine styles very unlike the Bordeaux-style reds that have traditionally dominated China’s wine industry.

Demographic trends of female wine drinkers in China

To see this demographic trend at work, consider the latest demographic data from Wine Intelligence, which continues to produce some of the most important information about modern Chinese wine drinker. According to Wine Intelligence, the size of the imported wine drinking population has doubled since 2012. Overall, there are now more than 38 million imported wine drinkers in China, with the bulk of these drinkers concentrated in large urban cities with a thriving middle class. (Wine Intelligence defines “imported wine drinker” as anyone who drinks imported wine two or more times per year.) The number of regular imported wine drinkers (i.e. those who drink imported wines at least once a month) in China is now 23 million.

What is most interesting, of course, is the source of all these new imported wine drinkers. According to Wine Intelligence, much of the growth in the wine drinking population can be attributed to the growing number of female drinkers under the age of 30 who are now drinking wine. In 2012, for example, just 30 percent of the imported wine drinking population was under the age of 30. By 2015, that number had jumped to over 50 percent. In 2012, females accounted for just one-third of all wine drinkers; by 2015, that figure had increased to 50 percent.

And, according to Wine Intelligence, there is plenty of potential for even more growth in the coming years. If you compare the size of the imported wine drinking population (38 million) with the size of the urban adult population (378 million), it’s clear that wine drinking still has not yet tipped into the mainstream, especially in China’s second- and third-tier cities. Shanghai and Beijing, of course, are two important wine cities in China, and now the emphasis is on attracting young female wine drinkers from other cities across Mainland China.

The rise of female wine influencers

At the same time as the size of the young millennial wine drinking population is growing in size, so is the reach and influence of social media. And that has led to a very unique opportunity for wine brands to engage young millennials via social media, especially via platforms such as Weibo and WeChat. There are now a growing number of Key Opinion Leaders in China, many of them female, especially in areas such as beauty, fashion, lifestyle and food & wine.

Perhaps the most famous female wine influencer is Wang Shenghan, also known online to her fans as “Drunk Mother Goose.” A graduate of Brown University and Le Cordon Bleu, she has effectively used the Chinese micro-blogging service Weibo (i.e. the Twitter of China) to chronicle her growth and evolution as a sophisticated wine drinker, and in the process, has become an online celebrity and brand influencer. She has launched Lady Penguin, which is really a hybrid social media platform, wine retailer and wine club. Lady Penguin has now branched off into tastings, events, and even a wine bar in Beijing’s trendiest neighbourhood. Her online wine shows now attract tens of thousands of viewers, and her total following on social media is close to 700,000.

The Chufei and Churan twins, also known as “the Kardashians of China,” are also helping to change the way women learn about wine. Recently, Wine Australia invited Chufei and Churan to Australia for a two-day, whirlwind event that included numerous tastings and wine events. The goal was simple: enable Chufei and Churan to describe what they were tasting and seeing in Australia, all in the hopes that they could influence young, upwardly mobile Chinese females to drink Australian wine.

Marketing to young female wine drinkers

In fact, if you look at any list of top Chinese KOLs for the wine industry, many of the influencers will be female. And this has opened up more opportunities than ever before to market to women in new ways that might not have been possible just five years ago.

One popular marketing approach, of course, is to emphasize how wine can be part of an upscale, sophisticated lifestyle. This builds on the notion that wine and wine education is really part of demonstrating social cachet. If you want to show that you are not just successful, but also sophisticated, the wine is one way to do this. A variant of this approach involves marketing wine as part of a modern, Western lifestyle. In order to show that you are truly upwardly mobile, it’s important to surround yourself with Western luxury good and drink exotic wines from around the world.

Interestingly, marketing based around accentuating the perceived health benefits of wine has also been very successful when it comes to female millennial drinkers. In survey after survey, perceived health benefits rank as the No. 1 attribute of wine for women, even ahead of factors like the taste. In many ways, this is a reflection of the fact that the colour red has always been associated with health, success and prosperity. Thus, drinking red wine is one way to become healthier. Plus, when compared to the alternative – drinking high-proof Chinese grain alcohol called baijiu – it’s easy to see why wine is perceived as being healthier.

Recently, the wine has been marketed to women in a way that emphasizes “fruitier” and “sweeter” styles. This is a reflection of the fact that many Chinese housewives now shop for wine at supermarkets. This has opened the door for new wine styles, such as Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, that are lighter than traditional red wine styles like Bordeaux. New Zealand winemakers, for example, are hopeful that, as more Chinese women shop for wine in supermarkets, they will pick up a bottle of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc on a regular basis.

Clearly, the wine market in China is changing and evolving. And leading this change are young female millennial drinkers, including a growing number of Chinese housewives who are now buying white wines and learning about new wine styles via social media.

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