With a value estimated at over $1.7 billion China’s wine import market is growing rapidly.
Finding out what Chinese consumers like in a glass of red is UniSA School of Marketing PhD student and Senior Sensory Scientist at The Australian Wine Research Institute (AWRI), Patricia Williamson.
Patricia has been working out the most important factors that influence Chinese consumers’ purchasing choice of red wine with some interesting results.
‘After doing my literature review I discovered that cultural differences and competition from other wine-producing countries are barriers to overcome,’ Patricia says.
‘Wine is generally not considered an everyday beverage like in Australia.
‘It’s associated with sophistication and is not so accessible to the total population because of the high costs.
‘Research has also shown that health concerns are an important factor in Chinese consumers’ decision to drink red wine and that Australian wine is a reliable choice for everyday drinking for some Chinese consumers, but for special occasions French wine is the choice.
‘So we decided to investigate how to improve the image of Australian wine compared to more established French wines.
‘So far I have found that information about Australia has a considerable impact on choice.
‘Buyers’ reviews are the most important attribute influencing choice of wine and messages about the environment and taste of wine are most effective to increasing the choice of Australian wine compared to French, Italian or Chinese wine.’
The project aims to help Australian wine producers break into China’s growing wine import market said to be worth over $1.7 billion.
Led by The Australian Wine Research Institute, Research Manager – Sensory and Flavour, Dr Leigh Francis, in collaboration with UniSA Ehrenberg Bass Institute for Marketing Science, Dr. Larry Lockshin and Geisenheim University, Institute for Business and Market Research, Simone Mueller-Loose, Patricia presented phase one of her studies in a webinar earlier this year revealing the influence of advertorial-type articles about Australia on Chinese consumers.
‘Working with Wine Australia, an industry advisory group and a Chinese wine consultant, we prepared five different short advertorial-type articles and tested them online with over 1600 imported red wine consumers in China,’ Patricia says.
‘The article about Australia’s clean environment and the article about Chinese consumers preferring the taste of Australian wine were the most effective.’
For eight years Patricia has been coordinating sensory studies and running consumer research projects after developing an interest in the work that the AWRI was doing with the UniSA Ehrenberg Bass Institute for Marketing Science.
Recently Patricia conducted a tasting of wines from France, China and Australia in both blind (not knowing the label) and informed conditions (with picture of label and price) for the project.
‘When tasting wines with label and price information, price was the most important factor related to liking, but some sensory attributes (specific appearance, aroma and taste characteristics) also contributed to the model,’ Patricia says.
‘For example, consumers were driven negatively by unbalanced wines in terms of sour and sweetness.
‘Sweetness was actually a negative driver for most of consumers in the informed condition, but when tasting the wines blind, most of them preferred slightly sweeter wines.
‘One group of consumers (30% of the total) was not influenced by price. These consumers liked wines with a glossy appearance, sweet aftertaste and blackcurrant flavour,’ she says.
Under the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement tariffs on Australian wine imports will be eliminated within four years, which is good news for Australia’s third largest export market for wine.
Thanks to the research of people like Patricia into the purchasing preferences of Chinese consumers of red wine, Australian producers are sure to find the right blend.