Anxi Tieguanyin (“Iron Goddess of Mercy”) Eyes European Luxury Market
This week, the Tieguanyin Association of Anxi, Fujian province — “China’s tea capital” and the hometown of Tieguanyin (铁观音, “Iron Goddess of Mercy”) oolong tea — signed an partnership agreement with a European representative to see Anxi Tieguanyin once again enter the European premium tea market, following a 100-year absence. During the signing ceremony, five of the most prestigious tea farms from Anxi announced they would join together as a single group under the unified brand name “Anxi Tieguanyin” for all European operations. The five tea enterprises involved in the Anxi Tieguanyin effort are Eight Horses (八马), Hua Xiang Yuan (华祥苑), Zhong Min Wei Shi (中闽魏氏), Ping Shan (坪山) and San He (三和).
Anxi Tieguanyin, one of China’s “Ten Famous Teas” (中国十大名茶), is considered by many to be China’s quintessential oolong tea. Anxi county, which lies adjacent to Xiamen in China’s southeastern Fujian province, has the ideal geographical and climatic conditions to grow and process Tieguanyin, and as such Anxi Tieguanyin has been highly prized among tea aficionados for centuries.
In a recent TV interview, Wang Wenli, General Manager of Eight Horses Tea, said the new Anxi Tieguanyin consortium plans to follow the marketing models used by the Chinese home appliance giants Suning and Gome, and build a strong and unified brand before entering the European market. Offering a similar example from halfway across the world, Yang Songwei, President of Longxin Tea, added that although France has hundreds of vineyards, French winemakers share a unified front in the global marketplace.
The first container of Anxi Tieguanyin will soon be shipped to Paris, with the company’s first marketing center in Europe to be established in the bustling area of Saint-Germain-des-Prés in the city’s 6th arrondissement. Traditionally a gathering place for left bank artists and celebrities, Saint-Germain-des-Prés has more recently seen an influx of more elegant clothing brands and restaurants, making it an ideal location from which to market Anxi Tieguanyin. Jing Daily previously noted that a crucial step for luxury brands to crack the increasingly lucrative Chinese luxury market is selecting a prime location. Apparently the Anxi Tieguanyin execs have done their homework before choosing their Paris foothold as well.
From China Daily (translation by Jing Daily team):
Anxi Tieguanyin’s marketing strategy will be similar to what Louis Vuitton did in China, said Wang Wenli, president of the Anxi Tieguanyin Association. The mission of the [Paris] marketing center is not merely to sell tea, but to advocate a high-end lifestyle that includes drinking Anxi Tieguanyin, Wang added.
The marketing center is decorated in a brightly colored, Chinese style, and will be divided into a selling area and a tasting area, a new interpretation of Chinese tea culture. The packaging design of Anxi Tieguanyin will combine Chinese elements as well as modern environmental awareness, incorporating traditional Chinese wood, paper, bamboo, porcelain and Zisha (紫砂) clay. The product introduction will maintain the Chinese brand name to remind consumers of the production source. However, product literature will also be provided in French to help local customers understand the product.
The marketing center will additionally launch an online store in five of the world’s most popular languages — Chinese, English, French, Spanish and Japanese. Moreover, the center will use major social networking platforms like Facebook to gain a wider consumer base.
Provided Anxi Tieguanyin successfully implements its market entry strategy and positions itself as a luxury product, rather than just another cheap tea on the market, we believe that the company could find a receptive audience in Europe. (If nothing else, among local Chinese residents, more than 100,000 of whom are estimated to live in France alone.) If Anxi Tieguanyin can make inroads in France, we’d expect it — or other expensive, high-quality Chinese tea brands — to be able to extend into the U.S. market in the near future. If nothing else, Anxi Tieguanyin’s European adventure will provide us a valuable case study in Chinese brands looking to move up the value chain.