As Champagne bottlers struggle to find ways to market the bubbly drink in China, where gift givers favor more subdued options such as cognac and red wine, one bottler looks to a certain ubiquitous cartoon cat to help give bottle sales a boost.
A recent Drinks Business report reveals that bottler M. Hostomme launched a new Hello Kitty Champagne at the Hong Kong International Wine & Spirits Fair last week in hopes of making the fizzy beverage more appealing in China.
The innovative idea was conceived by Dutch entrepreneur Paul Herman, who describes the way in which he came up with the idea in the report:
“I thought this character was just for 5-10 years olds until I saw a Hello Kitty launch party in LA hosted by Paris Hilton and Beyoncé,” Herman told db.
“It’s amazing what you can find – Hello Kitty-branded Swarovski-encrusted bikes, Mini Coopers, even Eva’s Boeing jets that fly the Taiwan to Tokyo route where the inflight meal features Hello Kitty. I’m a Dutch guy, so I’m very open-minded. I’m always looking for new things,” he added.
After travelling throughout Asia, and particularly Japan, for the past 25 years, Herman has come to know the market intimately and is in no doubt that the fizz will be a hit.
According to Herman, negotiations with Sanrio to use the famous mouthless character’s namesake were part of “quite a long process” which required the Japanese company’s approval “every step of the way.” The final product is called Cuvée Spéciale, and is (of course) a rosé, featuring 50 percent Pinot Noir, 30 percent Pinot Meunier and 20 percent Chardonnay. Herman stated that he unveiled the beverage in Hong Kong in hopes of finding more Asia distributors.
Hello Kitty alcoholic beverages are certainly not unheard of in Asia. This fall, a Taiwan brewer introduced Hello Kitty beer with fruity flavors and containers that would be considered to resemble children’s juice drinks in the United States. That’s not because these companies are marketing to kids, but rather because Hello Kitty is also popular with adult women. According to the Champagne’s website, it pairs well with fruit—especially strawberries.
Champagne has long struggled to gain a foothold in China. Despite intense marketing efforts by Champagne bottlers, the sparkling drink has the same price point but less gift-giving “face” value than top-tier red wine or high-end spirits, in large part due to the fact that it must be consumed immediately once opened and not resealed and displayed. In addition, most wine is consumed for business rather than leisure, a social setting which favors non-sparkling varieties. However, younger and female drinkers more open to white, rosé, and sparkling wines are believed to be the main drivers of non-business drinking, so the pink Hello Kitty blend may turn out to be a very smart move.
Initial reactions show that this could be the company’s ticket to success in China, as the Champagne has “seen a lot of interest from restaurants” so far.