Wine Brands Find Their ‘Youth Formula’ in Collaborations

Jing Daily’s monthly Chinese Collabs column looks at the China-related collaborations and drops that are transforming the luxury landscape. From local fashion brands to C-beauty, virtual idols to NFTs, and KOLS to lifestyle and games, it offers a curated selection of what’s dropping and the trends behind them. 

Premium cognac Hennessy announced an unusual hire recently: Chinese idol and K-pop group GOT7 member Jackson Wang. The gamble paid off, and the campaign video has earned almost 1 million views so far. Elsewhere, Italian house Gucci also ventured into the alcohol world with its first premixed cocktail, Elisir d’Elicrisio. 

Big global drinks names are finding new ways to be relevant to the mainland’s Gen Z market. For their homegrown counterparts, the same is true. A long queue formed in front of the Moutai stand at Guiyang’s Mixc shopping mall on Sunday. What for? Moutai ice cream, China’s first-ever tie-up between luxury liquor brand Kweichow Moutai 贵州茅台 and domestic milk outfit Mengniu Dairy.

Although there are countless Gen Z and millennials who have turned their back on alcohol, innovative collaborations are rebranding its image for the demographic that enjoy drinking. In this month’s column, Jing Daily explores the names currently bringing the market to life. 

Kweichow Moutai and others explore ice cream 

Gen Z loves ice cream. The product offers companies a gateway to rejuvenate their image and connect with this audience. Data from the Prospective Industry research institute shows that China’s ice cream sector reached $22 billion (147 billion RMB) in 2020 and exceeded $24 billion (160 billion RMB) in 2021, ranking first in the world in terms of market size. 

Moutai ice cream made quite the splash. Sales hit over $30,000 (200,000 RMB) within the first seven hours and on Weibo, the related hashtag had over 65 million views as fans cried out for scoops of “drunk” ice cream. The collaboration earned $5,891,886 (39.4 million RMB) in media impact value according to software company Launchmetrics

On May 29, Mengniu held a launch event for Moutai ice cream in Guiyang, China. Photo: Mengniu’s Weibo

It’s not the first time a baijiu brand has partnered with an ice cream label, reminded Tom Griffiths, business director at the Saas data tool company EQI Data. Back in 2019, premium liquor maker Wuliangye 五粮液 worked with bubble tea chain Heytea; Luzhou wine cellar once co-branded with high-end ice pop Zhong Xuegao. 

However, Kweichow Moutai, the most valuable beverage group in the world, is a unique case. “It has built up such a specific culture around itself. The liquor is mainly consumed by business people with refined taste in their forties and over. Now, it is a challenge for it to get outside that circle,” said Griffiths. Or the victim of its own success?

Citing a Tmall report, Moonie Zhu, co-founder and managing director of eTOC GmbH, which helps international brands to sell and grow in China, confirmed that the value of low-alcohol fruit wine sales has grown by more than 50 percent over the past two years, driven by Gen Z demand. While the market continues to be lucrative, it is clear hard liquors are no longer favored by young demographics.

In this case, it’s probably worth it for Moutai to break young shoppers’ prejudices of being an “old businessman liquor” and have a sweet-tooth makeover.

Wine and other alcoholic drinks seek out younger talent 

Yet, ice cream partnerships are not the only way to reach young audiences. In a bid to find the “youth formula,” alcohol players have also been looking to adapt themselves. This month, Chilean wine Los Vascos has teamed up with domestic emerging coffee brand @once吉饮 to create a set of beverages for camping — Glamping@once — which leverages the growing interest in the outdoors. On Xiaohongshu, it has amassed a considerable number of UGC instances. Launchmetrics found it has garnered $7,666 (51,335 RMB) media impact value (MIV), mostly due to its sophisticated packaging and indispensable gear.

Los Vascos created a beverage box for glamping with coffee brand @once吉饮. Photo: Glamping@once

Given that fewer citizens are traveling currently, Mexican beer Corona allied with local personal care brand Rever 乐若 to recreate the holiday vibe at home with sea salt-fruited beer and colorful bath bombs. The relaxing atmosphere Corona x Rever is attempting to build to comfort locked-at-home consumers is likely to bring it closer to locals. For Zhu, the initiative will help the two to have a followers exchange and reach a wider audience, given their very different consumer bases. Indeed, an impressive $19,360 MIV (129,660 RMB) was achieved by the endeavor, as per Launchmetrics’ findings.

The Corona x Rever collab includes fruity beers and colorful bath bombs. Photo: Rever’s Weibo

Fashion partners win out 

To make a wine brand cool in the eyes of young shoppers and fashionistas, designer establishments offer good options. Ecco Domani x Private Policy is the perfect example of this trend in China. The contemporary wine firm tapped domestic gender-fluid label Private Policy NYC to design their 2022 limited edition Pinot Grigio bottle. The duo designed the container with the sparkling city lights and starry skies of New York in a bid to harness “infinite possibilities.” 

Private Policy designed the Ecco Domani bottle with New York’s starry skies in mind. Photo: Ecco Domani

According to the research conducted by McKinsey, the proportion of Chinese consumers who prefer to buy local has grown from 15 percent in 2011 to 85 percent in 2020. CIC’s report shows that the market size of homegrown designer brands is estimated to have exceeded $13.5 billion in 2020 (from $1.64 billion in 2011). This may indicate that sales of the special edition will be lifted in China mainland.

“It’s great to see international brands collaborating with Chinese designers. It shows inclusion,” commented Griffiths on this intriguing union. And clearly the association is also beneficial for the wine company: Private Policy can help Ecco Domani boost its awareness locally and still imbue the effort with a global air from their New York base. 

Last but not least, should drinks businesses give the blind box wave a miss? Australian organic winery Baaswood has aligned itself with Mengqi Culture IP toys — Milolo and Bear Bernie — to add a touch of surprise to their offerings. Not everyone was convinced. “I’m worried about the infantilization of the wine market, maybe they have pushed too much by partnering with blind boxes,” Griffiths added. For obvious reasons, alcohol and blind boxes have very different targets. 

Baaswood put a youthful spin on its offerings by collaborating with Mengqi toys. Photo: Mengqi

With young cohorts enjoying a glass of wine at home or in bars, alone and with friends, luxury maisons should closely monitor this trend for marketing buzz or even as a potential extension of their lifestyle category. “The partnership between luxury and wine will help both parties to enhance their brand image, creating an enjoyable lifestyle, and embedding the ‘luxury’ label more into every aspect of consumers’ lives,” stated Zhu. Some collaborations may just be a marketing stunt, admittedly. But for successful businesses like Moutai, whose annual sales surpassed $150 billion (1 trillion RMB) in 2021, the question it poses is not how to stay relevant today, but tomorrow. 

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Collabs and Drops, Global, Marketing