The forty percentage point increase in the spirits market in 2010 seems to be a distant memory now. The golden ten years of the spirits market ended in such an abrupt way that few could ever have rightly predicted it happening. The shrinking high-end segment and the subsequently over-crowded mid-range have made life difficult for spirits brands in 2012/13, with the growth rate of spirits market in value terms shrinking to only 13%. Mintel’s 2014 forecast puts the growth rate at merely 6.4%, just a couple of percentage points above the inflation rate, making it the worst performance since the start of the golden ten years at the beginning of 2000.
Baijiu is under pressure from both the regulatory perspective and the competition from its main rivalry, Western spirits. Although baijiu maintains 98% of the market share, its core user base, men in their thirties and forties and consumers from tier one cities, are showing signs of decline. In order to shield itself from the competition, baijiu brands will need to address consumers’ concerns over its health implications and strong taste by offering milder and lighter versions of baijiu. An original liquid concept could also be utilised to solidify baijiu’s presence in lower tier cities.
Western spirits are facing different types of challenges. Lack of knowledge makes adoption of Western spirits a slow and costly process. With the initial hype dying out, Western spirits brands are in the right place to nurture the market to achieve more sustainable growth in the future.