Robert Beynat of Vinexpo: Global Wine Industry Gearing Up For GrowthJune 1, 2011
When it opens its doors in Bordeaux this June 19th through the 23rd, the Vinexpo international wine and spirits exhibition will be celebrating its 30th anniversary. When the show last convened in 2009, the consensus among attendees was that the global economic sluggishness would be short-lived. The past two years proved otherwise, says Vinexpo ceo Robert Beynat, but he cites optimism that the market is poised to resume widespread growth. Shanken News Daily recently spoke with the Vinexpo head about the upcoming show and about his view of the wine world in general.
SND: How is exhibitor attendance at Vinexpo shaping up this year?
BEYNAT: Generally speaking, 2010 was a difficult year for the wine industry around the world. When we began selling Vinexpo space a year ago, many companies said, “Reserve a booth for us. We’ll pay you later.” Now, everyone is in, and the number of companies exhibiting is more or less the same as in 2009, at around 2,500. We have 48 countries represented this year, up from 45 at the last show, with Japanese sakes and a small Brazilian contingent among the newcomers. Companies have to make tough choices about their marketing dollars, but they’re sticking with Vinexpo because it’s a place to meet new partners as the industry continues to consolidate.
SND: Is there any movement in your exhibitor rolls of New World versus Old World producers?
BEYNAT: There really is no New World anymore among producers—unless you consider China and India, where production is only now coming into its own. (China entered the top 10 wine-producing nations last year.)
SND: Have spirits companies embraced Vinexpo as a forum?
BEYNAT: The spirits business is so much more concentrated than wine, of course, with 10 companies comprising about 80% of sales. But we have about 5,000 square meters of spirits exhibitors—about 12% of the total, including many of the big players as well as some new faces. In vodka, we’ve gotten huge demand for space from Eastern Europe, especially Poland and Russia—so much that it’s impossible to accept them all. We also have an increasing number of candidates from the rum category seeking to boost global visibility.
SND: Will attendees find any new initiatives at Vinexpo this year?
BEYNAT: One new addition is a series of separate tastings apart from the main floor. There will be 70 hour-long slots in 10 different rooms where regions, countries and specific exhibitors can organize tastings. Visitors always say, “Of course we taste at all the booths, but there we’re tasting in front of marketing and sales managers, so it’s more business than tasting. We’d like a place where we can sit and concentrate and compare the different wines.” So we’ve created that venue.
SND: So you’ve been noting a more optimistic outlook as 2011 progresses?
BEYNAT: Yes, 2010 was tough for many producers—not only for the French or Americans but the world over. But now they’re convinced that distribution is again moving very quickly. And consumer attitudes about wine are improving. The U.K. is a good example. Ten years ago when we studied 25-30-year-olds in the U.K., they mostly considered wine a product for their parents. Now, wine is fashionable in that group. The same is of course happening in the U.S. Then there are new markets like India, China, Korea and Taiwan. That’s why we’ll be in Hong Kong for Vinexpo Asia-Pacific again next year. But I would caution against being too seduced by Asia. If you have $10 to invest, put $8 in the U.S. and $2 in China, not the reverse. The U.S. drinks about 12 liters per head, the U.K. 27 liters and China only one liter. I expect the U.S. to remain the number-one wine market in the world for the next decade or so.
SND: The Chinese thirst for high-end Bordeaux and other trophy wines is well known. Do you see producers succeeding with lower-priced, everyday wines there as well?
BEYNAT: The Chinese will follow America. If you think of the story of the wine market in America since Robert Mondavi and Ernest Gallo, I’m sure the story of wine in China in the coming years will resemble that. They will produce more, they’ll drink better, they’ll continue to build brands—like COFCO’s Great Wall—and they will import more. They’re starting with the most expensive and prestigious wines, but eventually they’ll import all price points.
|Fastest-Growing Wine Markets Worldwide1
(millions of nine-liter cases)
|1ranked by 2010 volume
2addition of columns may not agree due to rounding
3average annual compound growth rate
4based on unrounded data
Source: IMPACT DATABANK