China’s Top 50 Brands Missing Fashion, Luxury

High-End Baijiu Only Luxe Label To Crack Top 10 

Wuliangye and Moutai are two of China's top spirits brands.

Wuliangye and Moutai are two of China’s top spirits brands.

According to a recent study conducted by brand consultancy Millward Brown, the only Chinese luxury companies worth listing amongst China’s top 50 most valuable brands are beverage-related, including two baijiu distilleries and one winemaker. With the absence of other industries such as fashion or carmakers from the list, it will be interesting to see who makes the cut next year as Chinese spirits companies feel dramatic effects of the government crackdown in 2013.

Although Chinese rice wine spirit baijiu has been having a bad year as a result of the government’s crackdown on both luxury “gifting” to officials and government-funded banquets, top distillers still have clout, according to the report. Kweichow Moutai was the top Chinese luxury brand overall on the list, making it into the report’s top 10 at number 9. Although the company recently saw its growth cut by two thirds compared to last year, it is attempting to bounce back by boosting its overseas sales, which grew by over 80 percent in 2012.

Another distiller suffering from the effects of the crackdown, Wuliangye, took spot number 20 on the list. The company’s strategy has also been to market internationally as well as to attempt to attract a younger set of consumers to make up for the bureaucrats no longer drinking their product on the government’s dime. Despite being known mainly for its alcohol products, the brand is actually a powerful conglomerate which also deals with plastics, pharmaceuticals, printing, packaging, and electronics. In its headquarters of Yibin, an airport is currently under construction that will be named after the brand.

On another surprising note, Chinese wine continues to make headway, with Changyu Wine Company coming in at number 19. The brand has been working to position itself both domestically and internationally as China’s premiere winery, featuring both inexpensive and upmarket wines. Its Château Changyu label, produced at its European-style estate, includes a Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot blend from Ningxia and three ice wines from Liaoning. Although Chinese wine has generally struggled to gain prestige in comparison to brands from other locations, the company has been making headway internationally as stores in London have begun to sell its bottles, and has employed European consultants to oversee its ambitious development projects.

Even if baijiu companies are not able to gain enough ground to make up for precipitous losses this year and experience a drop in ranking, other Chinese luxury brands may benefit from the crackdown. For example, austerity measures which have hurt foreign automakers may lead to a rise in prominence among Chinese brands such as luxury automaker Red Flag, which may gain in influence as other brands are banned for government and military use.

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Food, Wine, & Spirits, Industry Sectors