Can Baijiu Take London? Diageo Seems To Think So

Diageo Built Stake In Owner Of Shui Jing Fang In 2011

Diageo built up a stake in the owner of the Shui Jing Fang brand last year

The much-hyped overseas march of baijiu — the eye-watering white spirit so ubiquitous at business dinners in China — may not have turned many heads in places like the US, but drinks giant Diageo is confident that it’ll find a receptive audience for its Sichuan-based baijiu brand Shui Jing Fang in the UK. As the company announced this week, Diageo plans to make Shui Jing Fang available at high-end Chinese restaurants in the British capital as well as high-end department stores and hotels — looking, ostensibly — to tap the growing number of wealthy Chinese tourists, property buyers, and students now seen throughout the city.

According to the Independent, Diageo UK plans to flog its “super luxury” Shui Jing Fang, which retails at £99 (US$154) and is aimed at “gifting, consuming with a meal or a premium treat.” Said Diageo UK director Andrew Cowan, “There are 4,500 authentic Chinese restaurants in the UK and we would like to educate the western palette (sic) as well as sell to the consumers that know the brand.”

Diageo will sell Shui Jing Fang through the drink through SeeWoo, a London-based Chinese supermarkets and restaurants supplier. SeeWoo now has stores in London and Glasgow and is a supplier for high-end restaurants such as Hakkasan (which also has outposts in New York and Miami) and Shanghai Blues. At this week’s launch event, buyers from upscale stores Fortnum & Mason and Harrods said they are considering stocking Shui Jing Fang, while Diageo is also targeting restaurants, hotels and bars such as The Dorchester’s China Tang.

Though we’ve long said that it will take years, if not decades, for more adventurous Western drinkers to order baijiu in the way they now order sake or even Korean soju, Diageo seems confident that the Chinese market in the UK, which is estimated at more than 2 million people, will be more than enough to buoy sales for the time being.


Market Analysis, Marketing, Retail