According to the IWSR Ecommerce Study: A strategic roadmap for alcoholic beverages report, the Chinese e-commerce market for alcoholic drinks is valued at US$ 6.1 bn (CNY 41.9 bn).
“This is four times the size of the US beverage alcohol ecommerce market, and three times the size of the next-largest markets of France and the UK,” said IWSR in a statement.
Two of China’s e-commerce giants, Tmall and JD.com, take up 70% of the online alcohol market in China. Over 50% of Chinese consumers make online purchases on a monthly or more frequent basis.
“Wine is the major alcoholic beverage category sold online, typically with 60% to 70% share of online beverage alcohol sales,” added IWSR.
According to wine and spirits exhibition specialists Vinexpo, China is expected to become the second largest market globally for grape wine, only falling behind the United States.
Local wine consumption is anticipated to rise over 33% to US$ 23 bn (CNY 157.9) within the same period.
“Since Vinexpo began tracking world data so many years ago [the] rise of the Asia Pacific region and its massive contribution to growth of the wine and spirits sectors [has been remarkable],” said Vinexpo CEO Guillaume Deglise.
The anticipated growth rate for the alcohol e-commerce market in China is 15% per year.
The rise of foreign wines in China
A separate study on wines in China’s e-commerce market revealed that foreign wine purchases are especially prominent in the largest cities.
Published in the Italian Journal of Food Science, the study stated foreign influence as a major factor for the increasing consumption of foreign wines.
“The interest and enjoyment of foreign wines has become especially prominent in the largest cities (Shanghai, Beijing, Shenzhen, Guangzhou or Hong Kong) where a mix of expatriates, western-educated Chinese and an open-minded population have an appetite for imported goods,” said the authors.
“This recent trend has also affected China’s social structure, which has been influenced by younger consumers who tend to purchase wine by using new e-commerce platforms, and it’s continuing to grow.”
Some of the major B2C wine e-commerce platforms in China include Yesmywine, Wine9 and Jiuxian.
The study also mentioned differences between online and offline border control as a potential factor for the online industry’s rapid growth.
“In online trade, unlike offline trade, local governments face difficulties in controlling border effect and to restrict online trade: this effect due to the existence of government protectionism in the offline market [should be used by wine producers],” wrote the authors.
Taobao data also showed that consumers aged between 25 and 35 years prefer Italian wines over French wines.
As of 2015, China's per capita consumption of wine stood at two litres.