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China Daily Global / 2020-05 / 12 / Page010

Fermented beverages made with fruit juice sparking interest among youth

By CHEN MEILING | China Daily Global | Updated: 2020-05-12 00:00

Fruit wines, fermented beverages made with a fruit juice base other than grape juice, are enjoyed in China for their sweetness, lower alcohol content and innovative packaging designs.

Wang Huiqi, 26, a postgraduate student in Zhejiang province, said she seldom drinks alcohol but likes to share a bottle or two of fruit wine with her friends.

"It tastes both sour and sweet, and is much milder. It will not cause headaches or stomach discomfort like beer or liquor. Besides, the price is cheaper," Wang said, adding the bottles are also pretty and can be used as vases afterward.

Dai Xiantian, a 29-year-old media worker in Beijing and former head of a traditional Han clothing club in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, said he used to have picnics or spend nights in clubs wearing traditional Han clothing, and fruit wine was a good match for expressing Chinese culture.

"It has the aroma of flowers and fruit," he said.

Fruit wine has been developing fast in recent years as it meets growing demand among Chinese consumers for casual social contacts, and healthy and personalized lifestyles, said Chen Ke, a senior partner at consultancy Roland Berger.

Annual growth of fruit wine in the Chinese market is about 15 percent, although its proportion in the entire alcoholic drinks sector is still small, Chen said, adding he expects promising development for fruit wine with growing interest from female and young consumers in particular.

Fanzuihuating, a four-year-old fruit wine startup, targets female consumers aged between 20 and 40. Zhang Fujun, its co-founder, told media website 36Kr that it now has about 50 different products. Peach blossom, rose, litchi and plum wine are the most popular.

The company has opened 25 offline pubs with decor and costumes based on ancient Chinese style. Each fruit wine bottle has a Chinese poem, all to enrich the consumer experience, Zhang said. It also opened more than 40 specialty stores at shopping malls or scenic spots, and mobile wine cabinets at restaurants. Offline sales revenue reached 33 million yuan ($4.66 million) in 2019. The company began to sell on online platforms in April.

Cool Drink, founded in 2016, is a plum wine brand. Chen Tao, its founder, told news portal iyiou that its sales grew to over 10 million yuan last year. The wines are sold on some 20 e-commerce websites as well as in convenience stores, supermarket chains and restaurants.

Guizhou Huajiu Liquor Co produces rose and honeysuckle wine targeting young and middle-aged consumers. Though its sales were hit by the COVID-19 epidemic, the company has adopted online sales and livestreaming to meet the goal of 8 million yuan in sales revenue this year, said sales director Huang Guicai.

Besides emerging brands, liquor giants like Kweichow Moutai, Wuliangye and Luzhou Laojiao have also developed fruit wines.

A report in 2018 showed consumers aged 31 to 36 ranked first in multiple sectors of liquor consumption including spirits and beer, but those between 25 and 30 were the largest consumption group for imported wines and mixed fruit juice wines. It showed young consumers had more interest in diverse tastes and reduced alcohol content.

Fruit wines have been written about in many Chinese poems, which means they were part of the traditional culture. But production methods have changed over time, said Cheng Wansong, secretary-general of Beijing Association for Liquor Circulation.

In 1987, a major industry meeting was held in Guiyang, Guizhou province, proposing four changes-from strong wine to mild wine, distilled liquor to brewed wine, grain liquor to fruit wine and ordinary wine to high-quality products.

However, the development of fruit wine still faces challenges in process specification, quality guarantees and storage issues, Cheng said.

Fruit wines are displayed at an international exhibition in Beijing on Aug 30, 2019. A JING/FOR CHINA DAILY

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