Japan Market update: January – April import figures

New data are available from the Statistics Center of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and have been published on the June 11th  (number 1880) issue of Shuhan News. Here the most relevant figures:

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As always the big match is between France and Chile, at least if we consider quantity. Value data are not available, but I suspect France being ahead (high priced wines all lies in the under 2L category). Italy and Spain do not fare bad, while exotic countries like Macedonia and Mexico made an impressive increase though it is not clear how long their growth will last.

France dominion in the sparkling sector is evident and confirmed by Vincent Perrin, general director at CIVC, who visited Japan on May 18th. According to monsieur Perrin, whose words have been reported by the June 1st issue of Shuhan News, in 2014 Champagne sales increased by 21% (looking at value), which makes Japan the third biggest foreign market after USA and the UK. Japanese people are particularly fond of high level champagne, with the “prestige champagne” category (not really defined in the article) amounting to 10% of the quantity imported and 27% of the value.

Bad news for the fortified wine producers, with quantity decreasing for all exporting countries. There is a global trend in fortified wines towards a decrease in export volume with a simultaneous increase in export value: this might be also the case of Japan, but sadly there are no data available to confirm this (and figures from IVDP and IVBAM for 2014 are note very reassuring). With still wine slowly increasing year by year is a bit sad to see Porto, Sherry and Co. struggling thus. Lack of aperitif culture? Excessive alcohol levels? Difficulty in food pairing? Questions that must be posed and possibly answered if producers want to stop this downward trend.


Taittinger goes to Sapporo


A small earthquake has hit the japanese wine market: from September 1st Taittinger will be distributed by Sapporo beer, ending its contract with Nihon Liquor.
It is a very interesting move for Sapporo, which at least since the loss of Gosset in favour of Kikkoman-owned Terravert has not showed much interest in Champagne (the only other brand they distribute is Martel’s Comte de Noiron Brut).
President Oga Masaki explained that this move is aimed at diversifying Sapporo portfolio, capitalizing on the constant increase in wine demand. Satisfaction has also been expressed by Clovis Taittinger, export manager of the house.


The battle for supremacy in the Japanese wine market.

Very interesting article (at least for me, considering that I work in the industry in Japan) on how New World wines are gaining more and more share in this market.

The April 11th issue of Shuhan News (number 1875) reports datas from the Statistics Center of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, giving a very detailed picture of the wine maket in the first two months of 2015.

Concerning still wines in container smaller than 2L, in February France has made a comeback, gaining an upper hand with 3.367.872L of wine imported, with Chile second at 3.287.340L. Italy, alas is just third (2.382.493L), followed by Spain (1.986.506L), USA(547.142L), Australia (429.242L), Germany and other minor players. However Chile is still on the top if we consider the total of the first two months, with 7.651.588L against France 6.913.416L.

In the “heavyweight category” (wine stored in containers holding between 2 and 150L), Chile, Spain and USA are having a thrilling head to head: the first reached the top in February (286.089L against 279.864L and 253.104L), but the second and third are still ahead if we include January results, with 584.422L for Spain and 539.953L for the US (Chile is not that far though, at 532.593L). Italy and France follow, but their share it’s just a fraction.

Up to this point Chile seems to be just one of the main players, but it’s in the bulk segment (wine inside containers bigger than 150L) that its supremacy becomes evident, with a total of 3.517.961L imported since January 1st, well ahead USA 782.289L. South Africa shows a mildly surprising performance here, being third at 399.015.

Fortified wines category is of course limited to a few countries: Spain or Portugal? I would have said Spain, but the answer is Portugal and for a good margin (32.931L in February, 53.210L in the first two months, against 15.731L and 26.508L). However the declining trend of portuguese wines should not be taken lightly, as the volume is down to 70.8 when compared to last year performance in the same period (Spain is down too, but stopped at 96.3%). There is not much behind, apart from France, Italy and a bit of Greece.

Finally let’s turn to sparkling wines: here, as you can imagine, France sits on the top of the ladder (February: 833.040L, Jan-Feb: 1.720.093L), increasing its share by 6.4% relative to the first two months of 2015. Very good performance also for our runner-up, Spain, quite below France, but improving, while second runner-up Italy’s market shrank by 25% compared to January and February 2014. Fourth place for Chile, followed by Australia, Argentina, Germany, South Africa and, quite surprisingly, Mexico.

I would like to add just a personal note: Chile wine is very popular in Japan, and its rise seems unstoppable. At present it is still quite novel, consistent and affordable, all very important qualities in a country facing inflation like Japan. One day however Chile wine industry will need to rethink its role in this market: for now it is just the good value wine which you’ll choose if you are tight on budget, reliable, but not as fashionable as french, italian or even american wines (spanish wine image is a bit more mixed). When this country market will reach maturity towards Chile wine, producers and exporters will have to persuade consumers that they are not just the honest cheap bulk wine of old, but that they can offer also premium quality and a smart image, to appeal new high-income drinkers. Up to that day beware of Chile!