China Will Need Alcohol Awareness Classes

by: Mike Miller

It seems like everything is booming in China – the population, the economy, even booze consumption. The growing Chinese middle class is quickly joining its Western counterparts as a group who enjoys alcoholic libations.

Prior to the economic boom most Chinese could only afford homemade and local alcoholic beverages. Now, with more disposable income, the Chinese are gulping down alcohol as quickly as they are the world’s steel supply.

Head to the Pub

The increase in disposable income and interest in foreign alcohols has spawned an entirely new social eating and drinking establishment in China – the pub. China's expanding pub culture has offered more avenues for people to consume alcohol. In addition, a rise in the number of women who consume alcohol—especially wine—has expanded the China market. Overall, Chinese consumers are increasingly willing to try new varieties of alcoholic beverages.

Women Drinking at Record Levels Too

China's wine market sales are looking stronger than ever, with the sales volume projected to increase at a compound annual growth rate of 14 percent from 2009 to 2014, with increased consumption among female drinkers is fueling this strong growth.

Though it is socially acceptable for men to consume high-strength alcohol, the concept of women consuming high-strength alcohol such as baijiu (China’s national beverage with alcohol contents in the 50-60% range) is still not fully accepted in Chinese culture. Changing social conditions in recent years have led to the wider acceptance of drinking among women, however. Recently the country has seen gender roles blurring, and women and men are more equally attending events and participating in drinking in most social occasions in China.

Moreover, the new generation of working women in China is socially compelled to consume alcohol to stay "equal" in the eyes of their male colleagues. Female consumers' financial independence may also explain the rise in alcohol consumption among women, particularly in the past five years.

Female Winos

Within the alcohol sector, Chinese women appear to have primarily embraced wine, largely because it reflects their aspirational lifestyles. In addition, many consumers believe that drinking wine is good for one's health and that it promotes beautiful skin. Wine manufacturers may find the fast-growing consumer base of women wine drinkers interested in pre-mixed drinks and fruit-based alcohols as well.

With the growing drinking culture, China must also look to alcohol awareness. In a country that tightly controls virtually every facet of its citizens’ actions, perhaps mandatory alcohol awareness classes are in order before things get out of control.