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An Examination of the Attitudes and Behaviours of Ethnic Chinese Wine Consumers: An Exploratory Study

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Abstract

Qualitative focus group interviews were performed with ethnic Chinese wine consumers residing in Adelaide, South Australia. The purpose of the interviews was to explore wine related attitudes and behaviours unique to Chinese consumers. The major findings of the study revealed a preference for sweet wine styles and cork closed wine bottles. The practice of mixing red wine with lemonade was discussed. Participants believed that wine was good for their health particularly in maintaining a healthy cardiovascular system and a medicinal administration of wine for a positive health effect was observed.
2032
An Examination of the Attitudes and B
ehaviours of
Ethnic Chinese Wine Consumers:
An Exploratory Study
Simon Somogyi, Elton Li, Trent Johnson, Johan Bruwer, Susan Bastian
University of Adelaide
Abstract
Qualitative focus gr
oup interviews were performed
with
ethnic Chinese wine consumers
residing in Adelaide, South Australia
. The purpose
of the
interviews
was to
explore
wine
related attitudes and behaviours
unique to Chinese consumers
. The majo
r findings of the
study revealed a preference for sweet wine
s
tyles and cork closed wine bottles. T
he
practise of
mixing red
wine with lemonade
was discussed
. Participants believed that wine was good for
their health particularly in maintaining a healthy cardiova
scular system and
a medicinal
administration of wine for a positive health effect was observed.
Introduction
and
Literature Review
The
Chinese wine
market
is in its infancy
compared to the markets of other wine producing
and consumi
ng countries.
P
er capita,
the Chin
ese consumed 22
litres of beer, 3.6
litr
es
of
spirits and only 0.4
litres of wine
in 2005
(Wittwer and Rothfield,
2006)
.
This level of
wine
consumption is miniscule compared to
other
countries
.
By
contrast, in
2005,
per capita
wine
consumption
in France, Spain,
Australia and
the
USA
was
53.7, 33.7,
22.8 and 8.5
litres
respectively (Wittwer
and
Rothfield,
2006
)
.
MCM Wines
(2004) and Knott (2004) attribute
d
the low wine consumption to low levels of
wine knowledge among Chinese wine consumers
and suggest
ed
more wine education
is
required
to increa
se consumption
.
However,
c
urrent consumption volumes
have doubled
o
ver
the last ten years
, albeit off a low base
(Wittwer
and
Rothfield,
2006
)
.
This
increase
has been
attributed to the positive hea
lth co
nnotations of wine (Levin, 2004; Vertume Internationa
l,
2004; Guinand,
2005
; Liu and Murphy, 2007
),
the influence of Western cu
ltural practices
(Wine in China,
2000
;
Foodtechnology.com,
2004)
and the rise in average incomes (Wine in
China, 2000).
There s
eems to be acceptance that
Chinese wine consumers pre
fer fruity red wine styles with
a degree of sweetness
as
distinct from dry tannic styles or white styles (Regan, 200
0
;
Dewald
,
2003
;
Guinand, 2005
;
MCM Wines,
2004
)
.
Somogyi
et al
(2007)
found a
positive relationship
between
sweetness
levels
and
taste
pref
erence
score
in a panel of Chinese wine consumers.
Chinese wine consumption practices
may also be
different to
Western ones
. F
or
example,
the
practice of
“down
ing
” a glass of wine in one fell swoop
and the
practice of mixing
red wine
with
lemonade
(Jun, 20
03; Guinand, 2005)
. Famously,
in the 1990
s
former
Chinese premier
Li Peng
used lemonade to
make
wine swee
ter (Regan, 2000; Guinand,
2005).
Zhao (2003)
related the story of bottles of Chateau Lafite
-
Rothchild being opened and poured into jugs and
subsequently topped up with lemonade. Regan (2000) recounted the story of young, “trendy”
Chinese men and women meeting in bars and sipping cocktails made of red wine and
lemonade.
MCM Wines
(2004)
attributed
the
practice to consumer
s
tastes and wine
knowledge
being in
a developmental stage. However,
much of the information regarding this
2033
phenomenon is anecdotal in nature and it has yet to be
investigated
why
Chinese wine
consumers undertake this practice.
In a 2007 study, Somogyi
et al
(2007) found that red wine
an
d lemonade cocktail styles of wines are preferred by a panel of ethnic Chinese wine
consumers and that
higher concentration lemonade
mixed wines are preferred over lower
concentration lemonade mixed wines.
Wine is perceived in China as socially and cultu
rally sophisticated and is used as a status
symbol to aid one’s social standing (Zhao, 2003).
Higher income young Chinese buy foreign
wines to display their “elegance”, as foreign wines carry a
certain cachet and mystique
distinct from Chinese products (Le
vin, 2002).
Wine is
also
considered more masculine than
feminine, and
Bretherton
and Carswell (2001)
s
uggest
ed
target
ing
male
Chinese
consumers
.
Red wine is also considered to be lucky due to the connotation of “good fortune” that is
associated with the co
lour red (Liu and Murphy 2007).
Chinese cultural traits
such as risk
avoidance
influenc
e
purchasing decisions. Lowe and
Corkindale (1998
,
p.861
)
suggested
that
Chinese
consumers are less likely to deviate from the “norm” than Australian consume
rs
, and
thu
s
are
less likely than Australian consumers
to purchase
new products
and when
purchasing new products
those
with familiar brands names were more influential in the
purchasing
decision
making process
. This may demonstrate that Chinese consumers exhibit
higher levels of risk avoidance than Western consumers. While no literature regarding the risk
reduction strategies of Chinese wine consumers
is available
,
Joh
n
s
o
n and Bruwer (2004)
suggested that wi
ne consumers in general
employ s
ix generic
risk reduction strategies
(RRS)
.These
include
purchasing a “safe” or familiar brand, trying before buying, seeking
information before buying
, using price as an indicator of quality, seeking reassurance from
friends/colleagues and
purchasing a well known brand
.
Balestri
ni and Gamble (2006) add
ed
to the argument by stating that Chinese consumers are more likely to use extrinsic cues (such
as price or brand name) than intrinsic cues (for example grape variety and wine style) when
evaluating wine quality. It is reasonable to assume that ethnic Chinese wine consumers woul
d
also employ these RR
S
and cues
when purchasing wine product
s
.
The basis
of the high levels of risk avoidance exhibited by Chinese can be
attributed to
the
collective nature of Chinese culture. Thi
s
is hig
hlighted by Zhou
, Chenting and
Yeqing
(2001) who suggested that China is typically collectivistic and people are expected to abide to
group norms, with risk taking regar
ded as a challenge to the group
s
intere
sts and existence
and therefore
often discourag
ed. Zhang and
Neelanka
vil (1995) noted
that in Western cultures
individuals prefer independent relationships to one another,
whereas
in the mo
re collectivistic
Asian culture
individuals
are
more likely to have interdependent relationships with one
another
within a
collective.
The group sets the tone and style of the members in Chinese
culture (Sun, Horn and Merritt, 2004), in contrast to Western individualistic lifestyles and
the
resentment of conformity.
The
discussion
above
highlighted a number of Chine
se consumer behavioural traits
, many of
which were
an
ecdotally based. The purp
ose of this st
udy was to explore these traits,
in
particular the preference
s
for sweet wine styles and bottle closures
, the reasons for mixing red
wine with lemonade
,
health rela
ted wine issues
and the influence of collectivism and risk
reduction on wine related consumer behaviour.
2034
Methodology
This
was
an exploratory study involving
focus groups interviews. A focus group is a semi
-
stru
ctured interview that involves six
to
10 pa
rticipants with a moderator introduci
ng topics
that are
discussed by the participants
(Zikmund and
Babin
,
2007). The
target
population was
Chinese
born wine consumers, over 18 years of age
,
residing in the Adelaide metropolitan
area
in South Australia
.
Som
e
36
participants were
recruited by a marketing research firm
using a nonprobability sampling technique.
The
pa
rticipants were segmented into four
groups
based on age and s
ex:
males under 45 years of age
(Group A)
, males over 45 years of age
(Group B)
, fem
ales under 45 years of age (Group C) and females over 45 years of age
(Group
D)
.
The
four
focus group sess
ions were audio and video
recorded with the audio recordings
subsequently transcribed and analysed using the computer program HyperRe
s
e
arch
(
Version
2.6
)
. HyperResearch is a computer program able to analyse and
highlight words, sentences
and phrases (fr
om transcription) and categorise
them (Hesse
-
Biber, Dupuis and
Kinder,
1991).
Highlights of
Results
and
Discussion
The
fo
cus group
interviews
reveale
d
numerous topics of interest regarding ethnic Chinese
wine consumers’ behaviours and consumption patterns. Of particular interest was the high
frequency of discussion regarding the notions that “wine is good for one’s health”, “liking for
sweet wines” and
“m
ixing red wine with soft drinks
. Participants commented
that wine was
beneficial to one
s
blood, aiding blood recycling
and circ
ulation
and helped in making one
fall asleep
.
P
articipants
comments regarding the technique w
ith which they consu
me
wine
w
ere
of partic
ular interest. The
y mentioned
that they consume
d
wine in a measured,
medicinal fashion similar
to the consumption of medicines
and
also commented that they
believed red wine was particularly good for their health.
Par
ticipants’ representative
comments included
:
Group A
: “…reason (for drinking) maybe for health…
everyday I consume a little
cup”;
“…wine is good for sleep”; “…Ah…(wine) good for blood recycling”
Group B
: “...drink a glass of red wine before sleep and it helps the body”
;
“…I have
be
en indoctrinated that
red wine has more antioxidants it
can prevent cancer”
;
“…I
think red wine is best with the glycerols… it helps blood circulation”
Group C:
“…wine drink because (we think), a bottle of wine everyday is good for you
body”;
“… (wine) hel
ps with blood recycling
”;
“… makes you feel warm and you
have a good sleep”
Group D: “… but sometimes I can’t sleep and I have to drink wine”
;
“…I can’t sleep
and I think ah…I got to drink wine”; “…good for the blood….moving…circulation”
As previously not
ed
,
li
ttle information is
available
regarding
the issue of
Chinese wine
taste
preferences, in particular
sweet
or dry
wine
style preferences.
P
articipants
discussed this issue
and some of their representative comments included
:
Group A:
“…I like
some
swee
t w
i
ne”; “Yeah…(I) prefer sweet wines”
Group B: “…
I think for A
sian people we like sweet wines…that’s what I like”; “ I like
sweet wines but not too sweet”
2035
Group C:
“…I like the yellow one…I think it is sweet wine”; “When I buy wine I don’t
like to buy wine that says dry…so I like the sweeter wine”
Group D:
“…I just ask the question (of the sales assistant) is it sweet?”
T
he literature
noted
anecdotally
that Chine
se
wine consumers drank a mixture
of wi
n
e and
soft
-
drinks
and it was
thus
of interest to
explo
re
whet
her participants
undertook
this practice
and the
ir reasons for doing so. Examples of the participants
comments on this topic included:
Group A:
“…we often mix with S
prite (lemonade) with red wine because (it) can drink
easier”
; “…because red wine is a little bitter, so put the Sprite to make it feel better”
Group C:
“…we put S
prite into red wine because we want to make the sweet taste”
Group D:
“…a lot of them
mix lemonade into red wine…as it just tastes sweeter and
makes it less alcoholic as well”
The
study
part
icipants
made a number of comments regarding wine bottle closures.
The
se
numerous
comments included:
Group B:
“…I don’t know if it is a snobbish view, but I consider screw cap is not
really quality wine…high quality, expensive wine must ha
ve a cork”
;
“…I think the
cork ones are better as it allows you to store a wine longer”
Group C
:
“…If it
s red wine, cork, if
it
s white wine twist (screw cap)
Group D:
“… Yes I prefer screw on…it
s easier to open”
The themes discussed
by participants ma
y
assist in the development of wine marketing
strategies for China.
Some
24 comments from study participants were related to the
view
that
wine is good for one’s health
.
This belief concurs with that of U.S consumers who believe
wine to be a healthy drink
(Olsen, Thach and Nowak, 2006).
Participants
from all groups
commented that wine was good for their blood, aiding circulation and contained antioxidants
that reduce cholesterol.
The comments regarding blood circulation
are of particular interest
and
may ste
m from participants’ experience with Chinese medicine where treatments ar
e
given to improve circulation
(Shi et al
, 1989; Lee, 2000). The comments regarding
antioxidant effects that reduce cholesterol
may originate
from their experiences with Western
medic
ine whereby red wine consumpt
ion can reduce cholesterol. This phenomenon was first
brought to the general public’s notice as the French Paradox (Goldberg et al.,
2001)
. Therefore
participants’
comments relating to circulation and antioxidant effects exhibit
their
experience
with elements of both Western and
Eastern medicine
.
Participants
,
except from g
roup B
,
commented that wine
was
good for inducing
sleep
and make one
feel
warm in winter. The
comments
regarding wine consumption were
noticed to have “measure
d” tendencies
in
relation to the method of consumption
. Participants discussed that they wished to consume a
quantified amount of wine, for example a glass or a bottle of wine for
a medicinal effect. It
seemed
that participants were consuming wine in the s
ame fa
shion that medicine was
consumed, that is
in a measured dose, adding weight to the argument that participants
believ
ed that wine was medicine.
In re
lation to taste preferences, participants from all groups
commented that they preferred
sweet tasti
ng wines
.
Participants
, except
group B
,
also discussed the phenomenon of m
ixing
red wine with soft drink and confirmed that they did partake in this practice.
The
ir
reasons for
doing this included
to make the wine (dry red wine) sweeter and to reduce the w
ine’s
bitterness and alcohol content. The focus group sessions also covered topics regarding wine
bottle closures.
Group A participant
s
did not comment regarding bottle closures.
Participants
2036
in g
roup
B generally
preferred cork closed wine
bottles
and
comm
ented
t
hat cork closed wine
bottles could
be stored for longer that screw cap closed bottles
.
These comments go against
current
wine science convention that screw capped bottles are a better seal for a bottle
enabling a wine to be stored for longer with le
ss oxidated (age affected) sensory characters
(Godden
et al
.,
2001)
. Groups C and D, both consisting of females, indicated more of a
preference for
a
screw cap close
d
bottle
due
to its ease of opening
.
Cork closed bottles can
require a great deal of physic
al strength
to open
which
females may not possess
.
Apart from
certain comments in
groups C and D, participants generally
felt
that they did not like screw
capped bottles
. They perceived that screw capped bottles were inferior and generally
contained lower
quality wine
than cork closed bottles. The
comments regarding a preference
for cork closures may relate to ideas of prestige and status that are associated with wine in the
Chinese culture. The preference may also be related to the phenomena
of safe b
rand
buying
as
a risk reduction strategy as
posited by Johnson and
Bruwer (2004). T
he ne
w product
innovation
(screw caps)
is not
perceived as
familiar or “safe”
to Chinese wine consumers
and
therefore
is not adopted. This
reticence for
ad
option of
the screw cap
ped bottles may be
a
manifestation of
the collectivistic nature of Chine
se culture
as
noted by Zhou
, Chenting and
Yeqing
(
2001
)
, Zhang and Neelankavil (1995), Nicholson and Stepina (1998),
and Sun
, Horn
and
Merritt (
2004
)
;
whereby the
collective
has stipul
ated a preference for cork closed bottle
s
and therefore its members are compelled
to
adhere to group norms.
D
ifferences between the groups in terms of their comments were
observed. In addition to
groups C and D (the females) indicating higher preference for screw c
apped bottles than other
groups. T
he comments of
Group B
(over 45 years males)
in certain topics were different from
those of other groups. Group B participants did not comment that wine aided in fal
ling asleep
nor did they indicate
that they pa
rtook in the practice of mixing red wine with lemonade. The
reason for this may
be a result of
their
time spent residing in Australia
,
with group B
participants having resided in
for an average of 30 years,
as opposed to three years, eight
years and 13 yea
rs for groups
A, C and D respectively
.
Their extended residency
may have
led
them
to
discard
these trait
s and become
more westernised
.
Group B participants also
indicated a strong preference for cork closed bottles and a dislike for screw
capped bottles.
T
he dislike of
this new innovation may be due to age as discussed by Harris and Mills (1981)
and Zeithaml and Gilly (1987)
,
who comment
ed
that older
consumers are more resistant to
new
technological
adoption than young
er people. H
owever
,
this was not observ
ed in group D
(over 45 years
female
) participants
comments.
Further Research
This study was qualitative in nature and explored a number of concepts regarding Chinese
wine consumption
, attitudes and behaviours
. Further confirmatory research
in China
is
required
.
Of particular interest would be to conf
irm
through
sensory evaluation
the preference
for sweeter
wines
and mixed red wine/
lemonade wine styles. The effect of differing
concentration and carbonation levels of mixed red wine
/ lemonade styles on wi
ne
preference
should
also
be measured
.
Concepts
related to
age,
status, face
,
collectivism
and prestige and
how it relates to the preference for cork closed wine bottles could be further
examined.
T
he
belief that wine aids one’s
health
and any relationship
between that belief and the red colour
of wine
due to its connotation with luck could be examined.
2037
Marketing Implications
This study highlighted a number of Chinese wine consumers’ attitudes and behaviours that
will aid in the formulation of marketing strategies for wine products in China. An example of
a product strategy would be a red
wine mixed with lemonade
closed with a cork with
a brand
name which connotes sleeping peacefully
. A
product could
be
pos
ition
ed
as a medicinal,
therapeutic good
to be s
old in pharma
cies or herbal medicine stores
(governmental regulatory
issues aside)
.
In conclusion, the Australian wine industry ne
eds to take into account bottle
closure alternatives, sweetness levels, brand names and place of sale when developing
marketin
g strategies for wine for the Chinese market.
2038
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... In relation to wine, the Asian market is different from the European market in their relative preferences and cultural values (Lee, Zhao, & Ko, 2005). Studies show that Chinese consumers prefer sweet wine, but tend to drink more red wine due to its potential health benefits (Somogyi, Li, Johnson, Bruwer, & Bastian, 2007), whereas Australian consumers are less likely to rate wine as a healthy product. Indeed, Saliba and Moran (2010) found that only about 25% of Australians believe wine to be healthy. ...
... This phenomenon is not only found in Korea but also in other Asian countries such as China and Vietnam. Wine is perceived in China and Vietnam as a symbol of success and one's social status; so therefore, major wine buyers are young Chinese people with high incomes or wealthy Vietnamese (Do et al., 2009;Somogyi et al., 2007). Another factor in the low consumption of wine by Koreans may be that the classification of wine, e.g. by the European appellation control system, presents difficulties for Koreans. ...
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The objective of the present study was to examine consumer preference and consumption behaviour with respect to the health benefits of wine for two contextually and culturally diverse consumer groups, namely Koreans and Australians. Participants were required to be wine consumers over the age of 18. Responses were collected by means of an online questionnaire. The results indicated that perceived health benefits of red wine were higher in the Australian sample than the Korean sample. Similarly, Australian consumers had more health related wine knowledge than Korean consumers. Red wine was the preferred wine style for both Korean and Australian consumers; however, the proportion of preference for red wine was significantly higher in the Korean sample. With respect to the expenditure on wine products, AUD$11–$19 was the preferred price range for both groups. The results also indicated that health-oriented wine is more attractive to Korean consumers than Australian consumers. In relation to gender, Korean women preferred red wine as much as men, but Australian women consumed significantly more white wine than men. Such findings inform winemakers and wine marketers on the appropriateness of weighting wine production and marketing to health aspects in order to maximize consumer interest, especially in developing new wine markets.
... Consider, for example, the cultural differences between Eastern and Western countries: about wine, the Asian market is different from the European market in terms of relative preferences and cultural values (Yoo et al., 2013). It has been shown (Somogyi et al., 2007), that Chinese consumers prefer sweet wine, but tend to drink more red wine because of potential health benefits. On the contrary, it is unlikely that European consumers will tend to consider wine as a healthy product. ...
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The paper develops an exploratory research. It aims to understand the elements considered by a wine company to enter the US market and the characteristics considered to be important for US wine consumers when choosing a wine. For this purpose, the paper conducts two different steps of study: (1) it analyzes the US wine market, through a secondary data set; and (2) it studies a random sample of 4,560 reviews of US wines consumers found on CellarTracker. After a reflection on cultural issues related to the internationalization of companies, the paper presents briefly the theme of cross-cultural management, which is fundamental for the approach to new markets, and then it focuses on the wine industry. The focus will be on the peculiarity of the production of Italian wine companies and their choices of internationalization, particularly in the US market. The analyses show that (1) the US market ranks first in terms of consumption and represents, among other things, the first destination area for Italian sales and (2) the US consumer is strongly focused on the organoleptic properties of the wine.
... Interestingly, this is the first report highlighting that claimed health benefits of wine are a significant purchase decision driver for Vietnamese consumers (Table 2), whereas the Australian response was very similar to that reported by Johnson and Bastian (2015). The perceptions of health benefits by Chinese and Australian wine consumers have been described in other studies; Chinese wine consumers believed that consuming red wine is beneficial for maintaining a healthy cardiovascular system (Somogyi, Elton, Johnson, Bruwer, & Bastian, 2007) and the perceived health benefits from red wine were rated more highly by Australian wine consumers compared to Korean participants (Yoo et al., 2013). Generally, previous studies have shown that differences in consumer purchase intention are related to cultural backgrounds (Hall, Shaw, & Doole, 1997;Schütte & Ciarlante, 2016), which accords with our results indicating the key factors that impact on consumers' purchase decision differed across the three cultures. ...
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Ganoderma lucidum (GL) is a woody mushroom that has been widely used for many centuries in traditional Chinese medicine. Its bioactive-compounds are believed to promote longevity and prevent diseases in humans. With the close proximity of emerging Asian markets, Australian winemakers are beginning to adopt consumer-centric wine product development as a strategy to generate wines with profiles that meet the specific demands of these consumers. This cross-cultural study recruited 412 wine consumers (Chinese, Vietnamese and Australian) to participate in a survey to understand wine consumers' potential acceptance and self-reported intent towards new wine products produced with GL extracts and the relationship of their responses with wine neophobicity across cultures. Findings revealed that all consumer groups accepted the notion that GL wine products would be worth tasting and they would try them at social events, with Vietnamese consumers being particularly interested. Using the wine neophobia scale (WNS), three segments containing wine neophiles (n = 110), neutrals (n = 190) and wine neophobes (n = 112) were identified. The results revealed that Australian and Chinese participants were significantly more wine neophilic, compared to Vietnamese. As expected, neophiles were more prepared to taste and purchase GL wine products compared to neophobes across all three countries, although no gender differences were observed. The study provides the wine industry insights about consumers' attitudes towards a new GL wine product targeted to Australian and Asian markets that could help develop new niche wine categories and enhance consumers' satisfaction.
... In order to examine consumer preference and consumption behavior with respect to health benefits of wine, two contextually and socially diverse consumer groups were studied (Yoo et al., 2013). This study showed that Chinese consumers prefer sweet wine, but tend to drink more red wine due to its potential health benefits, whereas Australian consumers are less likely to rate wine as a health product (Somogyi et al., 2007;Yoo et al., 2013). Saliba and Moran (2010) found that only about 25% of Australians believe wine to be healthy. ...
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Based on a multi-national lifestyle survey, this study investigated consumer lifestyle differences between individualist cultures (Britain and the USA) and collectivist cultures (China and Japan). Congruent with previous findings on values and lifestyles differences between idiocentrics (individualists) and allocentrics (collectivists) at the emic level (USA), this etic-level (cross-cultural) study found that consumers in the individualist cultures, compared with those in the collectivist cultures, were more brand-savvy, travel-oriented, satisfied with their lives, financially satisfied and optimistic. They were also more likely to consider themselves better managers of finances. Findings that were incongruent with those at the emic level were also discussed (e.g. dressing behavior, opinion leadership and impulsive buying). Additional findings were provided as well (e.g. family orientation, gender roles, safety/security). The findings carry practical implications for international marketers whose products/services cut across both individualist and collectivist cultures.