Kiwi wine hopes high for China

Last updated 05:00 26/10/2012

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Wine exports to China have the potential to rise in value from a current $25 million a year to $150m in just eight years.

New Zealand Winegrowers says the target is aspirational, but consistent with the rise in wine exports to Asia generally in the last few years.

Wine exports have risen five-fold from $20m in 2005 to nearly $100m this year.

The growing importance of China to Kiwi winemakers is why New Zealand Winegrowers is opening its first Asian office next week, based in Hong Kong.

Asian marketing manager Monty James said the move had been desirable for some time, but the clincher was a recent industry review by PwC, which highlighted the need to be present in growth markets.

"Coupled with that, China has gone from being a small player in New Zealand wine to the number one [in Asia] by some margin and continues to grow. It grew over 50 per cent in the last financial year."

New Zealand Winegrowers already has offices in London, New York, San Francisco and Melbourne, and the Asian office is expected to service other markets in the region.

But there's little doubt China is its main focus, a market which till now has been forged by the efforts of individual winemakers or through big-label parent firms.

Experts in the field have stressed the need for Kiwi wineries to take a less fragmented approach and James says the Hong Kong office is the beginning of that broader effort.

It is being assisted by a $1.5m contribution from New Zealand Trade and Enterprise next year towards building the Kiwi wine brand in China and mainland Europe.

Hopes are even higher for Europe. The New Zealand Winegrowers-NZTE growth target for wine exports to Germany, Sweden and the Netherlands is $225m by 2020, well up from its present $45m.

James said the Government's involvement in marketing New Zealand wine was critical, "because our competitors . . . are going into China with significantly more and government-driven money".

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