American whiskey eyes China as major growth market: industry leader
With its increasingly urbanized population and rising middle class, China is a major growth market for American whiskey, a US industry leader has said.
"We've seen growth in China and our exports are up almost 15 percent compared to 2016," said Christine LoCascio, senior vice-president of international affairs, the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS), in a recent interview with Xinhua.
"It's a growth market for us. It ranks our 24th largest export market, but there are still a lot of opportunities to grow there and we've been doing promotions there," LoCascio said on the sidelines of the national trade association's annual economic briefing in New York City.
"China is a huge spirits market, and we just see it quite an opportunity for us," she said.
Since March 2017, DISCUS has appointed a Beijing-based American whiskey ambassador to provide in-market media relations and general trade servicing, promotions, and educational outreach to bars, clubs, restaurants, and influential trade contracts in Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou.
"We are optimistic that we will continue to grow. China is a relatively open market, and import tariff is only 10 percent. So compared to some other markets throughout Asia, it's a very open market," said LoCascio.
"We just continue to view it as an opportunity for growth for us; we are gonna continue our education campaign; we look forward to continuing to expand our exports there," she added.
Kraig R Naasz, DISCUS president and CEO, said the industry's strategy in China is predominantly focused on the long-term as the market holds great promise and the markets for premium US spirits are still developing.
"American whisky has a rich history and tradition behind it. It's very flavorful and can be mixed in many ways until you find the perfect cocktail for you," said Naasz when asked what makes American whiskey stands out among the world's spirits.
"I have tried many Chinese spirits as well as delicacies that are provided throughout China, and find them much delightful," said Naasz, who has visited China on several occasions in recent years. "I look forward to coming back because every time I visit, the change is amazing."
"On behalf of all American whisky producers, we wish our Chinese consumers a very joyous new year celebration and we like them to enjoy our products in good health, and good fortune, cheers to Chinese!" Naasz said, referring Chinese Lunar New Year which falls on Feb 16 this year.
Buoyed by a weak dollar, overseas sales of US-made spirits were up more than 14 percent, reaching $1.63 billion last year, according to DISCUS. The United Kingdom, Germany, Brazil, France, and Spain were the largest export markets for American spirits in 2017.