(Yicai Global) Aug. 18 -- Beam Suntory, a unit of the Japanese beverage giant Suntory Holdings, aims to lure Chinese customers with its wide range of products from high-end whiskies to liqueurs in a market long dominated by traditional baijiu liquor distillers, the firm’s China Managing Director said.
“China is a very competitive market. It is also a big market and an attractive market,” Daisuke Aso told Yicai Global during the Whisky L! exhibition held in Shanghai at the weekend. “Our advantage is we have a very wide portfolio.”
“The mission to delight consumers with our portfolio will never change regardless of the market,” said Daisuke, who worked at Suntory’s European and Singapore offices for over 10 years before moving to China. We also have to think locally to learn how people in different countries enjoy different products and what kind of occasion they will enjoy them at in order to better meet local consumer demand, he added.
The Chicago-based firm presented a 37-year-old single malt whisky, the Bowmore 37-Year-Old (FengHuang) Phoenix Edition, to the liquor show as part of an exclusive series for the Chinese market featuring the mythical creatures.
E-commerce is helping Beam Suntory make its products more accessible to consumers, especially when in-home consumption emerges during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Beam Suntory has online stores on Alibaba Group Holding’s e-commerce platform TMall selling Yamazaki, Hibiki, Bowmore, Legent, Horoyoi, Chita and other spirits with 200,000 followers.
“Digital channels are not only used to promote products and generate sales, but also to educate consumers,” said Daisuke.
However, supply is a problem. “Whisky needs to age for a long time, meeting rapidly grown demand is challenging, so supply cannot be controlled in a short time.” Daisuke said.
The popular Japanese single malt Yamazaki 12, for example, is very difficult to buy in China. It appears as ‘sold out’ on its TMall store despite the CNY2,100 (USD303) price tag that is one third higher than in the US due to spirits import tax. Beam Suntory has to rely on younger or non-Japanese spirits to overcome the challenges.
“Beam Suntory China has ample inventory and our logistics continue to run smoothly despite the Covid-19 pandemic and trade disputes between China and the US.” he added.
“Looking ahead, the ongoing pandemic presents continued uncertainty across global markets, and we must still manage the adverse impact of retaliatory tariffs,” said President and Chief Executive Officer Albert Baladi in the firm’s half-year report released on July 30.
Beam Suntory was formed in 2014 by combining the US distiller Beam and the whisky branch of Suntory. It has no plants in China and imports all its products sold in the country from overseas.
Editor: Kim Taylor