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LVMH Acquires Chinese Traditional Spirits Distillery: Could Westerners Be Sipping Baijiu In Coming Years?

Market Analysts See Foreign Investments In Chinese Traditional Liquor As Smart Move To Cash In On Emerging High-End Domestic Consumer

LVMH's baijiu joint venture with Wenjun Distillery could be a huge money-maker in China; But will it appeal outside the country?

LVMH's baijiu joint venture with Wenjun Distillery could be a huge money-maker in China; But will it appeal outside the country?

Although most westerners may be unfamiliar with baijiu, the traditional spirit of China, drinkers within the country have been sipping the powerful, often tear-inducing alcohol for centuries. Less famous abroad than Japanese sake or Korean soju, two of its descendants, baijiu is most certainly big business in China, with the most expensive bottles often selling for more than $10,000 USD. This high-end spectrum, populated by rare bottles produced by only a handful of companies, has apparently garnered the attention of more than one foreign company looking to get a piece of the premium baijiu market, as Diageo bought a 43% share in baijiu producer Sichuan Chengdu Quanxing Group last year and, recently, LVMH Moet Hennessy acquired a 55% stake in one of China’s top producers, Wenjun Distillery.

This acquisition should fit seamlessly with Louis Vuitton Moet Hennissey’s broader China strategy. As we wrote earlier this week, LVMH is making a massive push into the Chinese market, buoyed by figures that indicate China has leapfrogged past traditional luxury markets like the United States this year and should surpass the Japanese market within five years. Acquiring a premium baijiu with real brand pedigree — the first Asian brand to be owned by the LVMH group — is being greeted as a gutsy move, as the high-end baijiu market is both exclusive and highly competitive. As Karen Cho writes, the acquisition of Wenjun has huge potential as incomes grow throughout China, but — as uncharted territory — presents LVMH with a host of new challenges:

“This is the first experience for the whole LVMH group owning an Asian brand,” says Allan Hong, development manager at Sichuan Wenjun Spirits Sales Company. “Because of the great potential in China, the whole group decided to run the Wenjun brand as a super-premium brand in China,” he adds.

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