Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Peddling Bubbly to the Chinese

Here's hoping the Chinese will drink up lots of Champagne...
The French economy is in a slump despite the constant stream of mainland Chinese shoppers flooding Louis Vuitton, Chanel and Hermes for luxury handbags.

And while they may like these brand names, the Chinese are also snapping up top Bordeaux wines like Chateau Lafite-Rothschild, Chateau Margaux and Chateau Haut-Brion because they are worth bragging about as long as you have the good years (which aren't cheap).

Cognac is also a favourite which is why names like Martell and Remy Martin are still having steady sales even though young Chinese prefer wine over hard liquor.

But now the French are trying to save their financial situation by trying to sell Champagne to the Chinese.

While one might think it's an easy sell -- who wouldn't pass up bottles of Louis Roederer, Perrier-Jouet, Moet et Chandon and Veuve Clicquot?

"We think China could change the champagne market in the coming years," said Charles-Armand de Belenet, head of marketing for the champagne division of Pernod Ricard.

However, so far, the Chinese aren't biting -- I mean buying -- that much.

One of the reasons is Champagne needs to be consumed after it is opened, whereas cognac can be kept over time and offered to special guests. Many also give cognac as presents during Chinese New Year.

These gifts are displayed "on a shelf, like a vase," explains Paul French, an analyst with researcher Mintel in Shanghai.

"There's a massive over-expectation about China" among makers of bubbly, he said. "Champagne is quite a hard product to push."

Some naively think the Chinese will by anything and everything -- not so. First they need to be educated about the product and then have some brand awareness before they make their consumption decisions.

Perhaps Champagne makers have been behind the ball on educating mainland Chinese consumers, or maybe the bubbly drink really doesn't pair well any regional Chinese cuisine (because of the strong flavours) except Cantonese food.

In any event, marketers should perhaps push the romantic angle of Champagne, that women really do have a lovely blush on their faces drinking a glass... or two...

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