Japan was the sixth largest wine importer in the world last year, a position which makes the Land of the Rising Sun a highly interesting, though equally challenging market. We will try to see what were the major changes in the Japanese wine market in 2018 and which are the best strategies to identify a niche as a producer looking to find importers and distributors.
2018 promised to bring major changes to the Japanese wine market, changes generated by the historic deal between the European Union and Japan, which was signed on July 17.
The two sides signed a trade deal which aims to eliminate nearly all tariffs in the following years. Even if the measures won’t kick in right away and still require legislative approval, they will allow Japanese consumers to gain access to far lower prices for European wines.
A similar trade was signed in 2007 between Japan and Chile and one of the results was that Chile became Japan’s number one source of wine imports, surpassing even France. European wine producers hope that the same scenario will repeat with the elimination of EU tariffs, boosting imports of EU wines significantly.
Online and network stores sectors on the rise.
The Japanese wine market has been growing steadily for the past 10 years, fueled mostly by the younger generation that sees wine as a connection to global, less traditional values. These consumers often prefer to consume wine at home and make purchases online or in chain stores. Sales of these channels have seen significant growth.
The Japanese consumers are also becoming more and more exquisite and are looking to discover new regions and new wines. To have success, especially if you’re targeting a higher price point, wine has to be marketed in a sophisticated way, developing a connection to the personality behind each wine. Packaging and background are paramount, as with other product categories sold here, as the Japanese are well known for their strong sense of aesthetics, style and elegance The effort is worth it though as Japan’s consumer spend averagely 11.2$ for wines, which is higher than the UK’s £5 and France’s 3€.
Establishing a presence
Establishing a presence on the Japanese wine market requires a long-term commitment as finding the right distributor and going through the steps of gaining their trust might take more than expected. Research, especially about the country’s business culture is a must and regular visits to Japan are required in order to build trust.
Once a deal is agreed, however, producers can expect a stable, mature relationship, that will grow in time. Something that is usually lacking in other Asian countries.
BestWineImporters offers access to complete details about a large number of Japanese wine importers and distributors, included in this database.