Wine exporters should feel ‘cautiously optimistic’ about China

08 July, 2020 by Andy Young

The Chinese economy is already well on the way to recovery from the impacts of COVID-19, according to industry expert Ian Ford, who says the pandemic has in fact been “a shot in the arm” for off-premise wine sales.

Ford co-founded Chinese distributor Summergate Fine Wines & Spirits, which was acquired by Woolworths Liquor in 2014.

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He told the Drinks Adventures podcast that Australian wine exporters should feel “cautiously optimistic” by recent reports from the Chinese market.

“We’re seeing a lot of return to normalcy; Restaurants, hotels and bars are open, and domestic travel has been loosened up so business people are able to travel around China now,” said Ford.

“And what we’re seeing from many of our partners across the industry is that their sales have returned to anywhere between 60 to 80 per cent of what they would normally expect at this time of year.

“That’s all very encouraging, in my view. Importers are replenishing their inventory, they’re shipping wine.

“The direct-to-consumer guys are going like a house on fire, I’ve never seen them doing so well.

“I think there’s very good reasons to be cautiously optimistic that the China market could be a very positive source of ongoing or new business for producers in Australia and around the world.”

Since selling Summergate, Ford has co-founded Nimbility, a company providing expertise to wine, spirits and beer producers seeking to export their products to Asia.

He told the podcast that he believes COVID-19 is likely to have lasting impacts on Chinese consumption of wine and spirits.

“Several entities that I am in contact with on a regular basis, that have direct-to-consumer businesses where they do home delivery, have been reporting record sales in March, April and May,” he said.

“I think that that’s likely to not go away as restaurants and bars reopen, and the on-trade business comes back to life.

“Home consumption of wine may have had a real shot in the arm… I think what we’re going to see is a residual home consumption [impact] and direct-to-consumer retail business that’s going to emerge out of the back end of the COVID-19 period.”

You can listen to the full 50-minute interview with Ian Ford in the media player below. Or, click here to find the episode in your favourite podcast player.