Talking Scotch in China
04 Dec 2017
Talking Scotch in the world's biggest spirits
Clearly Scotch Whisky is a fabulous product appreciated in
countries across the globe. Scotch is the UK's biggest food and
drink export, topping £4 billion in 2016 to more than 180 markets.
Our quality is recognised, and provenance guaranteed, as our
industry follows a protected traditional process to make whisky to
strict standards in Scotland.
So I was proud to represent the industry in receiving an award
from the Chinese Alcoholic Drinks Association (CADA) for Scotch and
highlighting Scotland's place in the history books as one of the
world's top 10 spirits producing areas. It gave me the opportunity
to talk about the work the industry does, the people whose skills
are key to our success, the heritage of our product and the
opportunities to visit the sites across Scotland where whisky is
What may surprise anyone who is not familiar with the Chinese
market is what makes up the rest of the top 10 regions in CADA's
list. Six of the places were production regions for the locally
produced spirit Baijiu. Rarely exported, but part of traditional
Chinese dinner culture, more than 14 billion bottles of Baijiu were
sold/ drunk/produced in 2016. This makes it the biggest spirit in
the biggest spirits market in the world.
So Scotch plays a relatively small role in the Chinese spirits
market, but I detected a sense of optimism about growing
understanding and confidence among Chinese consumers in Scotch
Whisky. In particular, there seemed to be a link between the
heritage, longevity and "family" nature of Scotch production and
the values Chinese people hold dear. This is also born out by
recent export statistics which show an increase in the value of
direct exports to China in the first half of 2017.
There was also an obvious thirst for knowledge about what Scotch
is and where it comes from. As China grows economically there is a
greater interest in products from elsewhere in the world and the
story that Scotch can tell about its history and development
captures the imagination. So I found myself, with the support of
the British government, Chamber of Commerce and our member
companies, explaining to hundreds of people why I think Scotland's
national drink is so great.
The Chinese government is also keen to stimulate economic growth
and the recently announced cut in import tariffs on whisky should
support a boost in more Chinese people making that connection with
Scotch. Happily it seems like the UK-China golden era will continue
to run for some time yet.
Sarah Dickson, SWA director of global affairs