Wine in China: The Wild West of the Far East

By Alyssa Rapp, Emily E. Turco
2016 | Case No. SM261 | Length 14 pgs.

The purpose of this case is to illustrate why Napa Valley wine producers find it both irresistible and challenging to enter the growing Chinese wine market. Over the course of the 2000s, China went from being the 51st largest wine importer in the world to the 5th. While the Chinese consumer has an interest in foreign wine and significant discretionary income, logistical, regulatory, and cultural barriers prevent Napa Valley wineries from easily entering the market and achieving economic success.

Frederick Family Vineyards, a fictional, family-run Napa Valley wine company, is interested in expanding distribution into China. The company must determine whether this geographic expansion is economically viable and then determine which go-to-market strategy will best position the firm for success.

The company is deciding between four potential strategies: (1) Utilize traditional import and distribution channels (2) Leverage online sales (3) Partner with a logistics provider (4) Create a Chinese investment. Frederick Family Vineyards grapples with this decision in the face of imperfect information and an ever-changing market landscape due to President Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption measures. Few luxury goods were more effected by these measures than wines and spirits. Prior to 2013, an estimated 80 percent of luxury wine imported into China was distributed as gifts, and used to help cement deals and relationships. Now global wine producers are left to wonder how Chinese demand for foreign wine will change as a result of these broader governmental changes.

Learning Objective

The objective of this case is to force students to grapple with the challenges a foreign wine producer faces when considering entry into the Chinese wine market. Students will learn about the logistical, regulatory, and cultural hurdles that prevent many foreign wineries from being successful in China. Ultimately, students will utilize fact- based reasoning to select a go-to-market strategy that will minimize the challenges of geographic expansion while maximizing likelihood of market success.

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