The Chinese Beverage Landscape: Imported Beverage | Tractus


This article is part of a series exploring the beverage industry in China. For a comprehensive global market overview, refer to The Chinese Beverage Landscape: Market Overview, The Chinese Beverage Landscape: Nonalcoholic Beverage and The Chinese Beverage Landscape: Alcoholic Beverage articles.

Beverage Imports

China is one of the world’s largest imported beverage markets. In 2022, the value of domestic beverage imports reached US$5.6 billion (40.02 billion RMB). Of this, alcoholic beverages accounted for more than two-thirds of the import value, totaling US$ 4.51 billion, a 17.9% decline from the previous year, and 970 million liters in volume, a 50.2% decline. Despite the general reduction of all imported alcohol, imports of spirits decreased only marginally by 8.85% in 2022, securely maintaining their position as the top category of imported alcohol. This was made possible by whisky’s continuing development in the market. The category of imported wine experienced a 15.1% decline and is still far from recovering fully. Imported wine enjoyed a brief comeback in May before falling once more.

Source: China Chamber of Commerce of I/E of Foodstuffs, Native Produce and Animal By-products (CFNA)

Non-alcoholic beverages also comprise a significant market share with an import value of approximately US$1.3 billion. Imported coffee, for example, has become a particularly popular product in China, as the beverages can be highly tailored to consumer preferences. The customizability and sociability within the country’s budding coffee culture denote enormous potential for imported coffee-related beverages.

Source: General Administration of Customs. P.R.CHIN

Whisky in China

Historically latent, China’s whisky market is now showing signs of starting up, and demands are skyrocketing due to the increasing consumption among Generation X, Millennial, and Generation Z consumers. Market revenue topped $1.08 billion in 2021, and whisky sales are set to enjoy a 6.3% GAGR growth rate through to 2026, according to IWSR. The market is dominated by scotch whisky with 80% market share, followed by Japanese whisky and U.S. whisky with 10% and 5% market shares, respectively.

Imported Wine Purchases

The rise of foreign wine culture in China, particularly in first-tier cities, has been fueled by the increase in the number of Chinese citizens with experience living abroad and the country’s economic progress. For instance, a survey by HKTDC Research found that consumers in Guangzhou and Shanghai are more likely to purchase imported wine, with 18% of respondents from these two cities reporting that imported varieties made up more than 90% of the wine they bought in the previous year, a proportion higher than the national average.

Source: HKTDC Research

Consumers of imported wine give flavor (42%), brand (32%), the production region (31%) and grape varietals (30%) the most consideration when purchasing. The majority of them have purchased or consumed French wine, but they also exhibit interest in wine from Australia, Chile, New Zealand, and Spain.

Generation Z

Generation Z has become an increasingly important consumer group of imported beverages. Having grown up in the Internet age, they demonstrate a preference for individuality and quality and are more accepting of new and fresh beverage flavors.

Authored by

Herminio Andres is the General Manager of Tractus’ China office based in Shanghai. Cathy Gu is a Senior Research Analyst based in the Shanghai office.

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