Copa de vino blanco para el mercado vino sudeste asiático

The countries of Southeast Asia have been politically grouped since 1967 in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and commercially since late 2015 in the ASEAN Economic Community. Together, they constitute the Southeast Asian wine market, comprising 667 million consumers. Despite global crises and regional recessions in recent years, this market continues to grow at an average annual rate of 5%. This growth is partly attributed to the emergence of an upper-middle class in Asia with purchasing power and Westernized preferences, associating wine consumption with a certain income level.

Therefore, it is crucial to understand this sector in some of the ASEAN member countries, especially in the Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam, which are part of Group 3, Annex III, of Royal Decree 1363/2018, dated November 2, for the implementation of support program measures 2019-2023 for the Spanish wine sector. This Annex prioritizes promotional activities carried out in these countries over other areas. Although all countries are eligible for these actions, these four are deemed as top priorities.

In order to support the entry of our companies into these markets, or at least bring them closer to them, their characteristics (offerings, consumer profiles, and trends), players (importers and distributors), and regulations (mainly tariffs and taxes) will be briefly outlined. It is worth noting that this approach to the Southeast Asian wine market, while concise, requires adapting the content to each specific case to design an appropriate strategy for each.

SOUTHEAST ASIAN WINE MARKET: THAILAND AND VIETNAM

THAILAND

1. Characteristics:

Thailand is a wine-producing country, but almost all of its production is destined for export (Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos). Therefore, the wine consumed in Thailand is imported, with major suppliers being France, Australia, Chile, the United States, Italy, and New Zealand, Spain ranking discreetly in seventh place. This seventh place corresponds to a market share of 1.7% in value and 2.6% in volume, significantly distant from what should traditionally and qualitatively belong to us, possibly due to the lack of a national image and, consequently, the awareness of our wines.

Unlike Indonesia, a majority Muslim country where religion influences alcohol consumption, in Thailand, a majority Buddhist country, religion does not restrict alcohol consumption as it is not prohibited. The average consumer follows a pattern of urban upper-middle and high-class with high purchasing power, inclined towards consuming high-priced wines like French or Italian ones. For consumers with lower income levels, they opt for medium-priced wines ranging between 551 THB – about €14 – and 950 THB – around €24 – such as American, Australian, or Chilean wines. Among these consumers, white wine is more preferred than red wine, likely associated with the climate.

Categorized into three price ranges – between 200 and 600 THB – around €15.5 -; 600 and 2,000 THB – approximately €51 -; and over 2,000 THB, wine imports are heavily taxed at varying rates and types, to the extent that they can account for up to 400% of the final cost. Additionally, commercial margins can range from 15 to 40% for retail channels (hypermarkets, supermarkets, specialty stores) and between 200 and 500% for Horeca channels (over 10,000 restaurants and 2,550 hotels): the former dominates the market in volume while the latter in value.

2. Market:

Importers and distributors of wine in Thailand, like in neighboring countries, must possess import licenses and sales permits. They play an essential role as intermediaries in introducing Spanish wines to the Thai market. Similar to other countries, wine imports in Thailand are subject to certain tariff barriers. Spain, along with other WTO countries, is not exempt from these barriers that can reach up to 54% of the CIF price. In contrast to countries like Australia or New Zealand, exempted due to free trade agreements signed with Thailand.

Regarding fiscal barriers, starting with the Excise Tax (10% of the retail price + 2,000 BHT per liter of pure alcohol), followed by the sports tax (2% of Excise Tax), health tax (2% of Excise Tax), municipal tax (10% of Excise Tax), broadcast tax (paid by the importer: 1.5% of Excise Tax), and value-added tax (7% of the total product value already taxed by previous taxes).

Lastly, labeling requirements include the wine name and type; country of origin; producer’s name and address; importer’s name and address (in Thai or English); winery; net volume; alcohol content; a warning about alcohol consumption risks (in Thai with a minimum font size of 2mm contrasting with label color); and product registration symbol if applicable. If original labels lack this information, Thai authorities accept relabeling on the back of the bottle. In any case, 10 sets of labels must accompany each different product type.

3. Strategy:

A growing market like Thailand undoubtedly offers significant opportunities within the Southeast Asian wine market despite tariff and tax barriers. This demands tailoring a strategy to local consumption habits and preferences since the average consumer demands products based on origin (country) and wine type rather than appellation of origin. Despite restrictions on alcohol advertising, these challenges are not insurmountable. If French and Italian wines can make a successful entry into the Southeast Asian wine market, why can’t ours?

VIETNAM

1. Characteristics:

The wine market in Vietnam presents greater obstacles compared to the rest of the Southeast Asian wine market, affecting all wine-exporting countries, not just Spain. Therefore, these obstacles should be seen as a challenge for our wines to establish a presence. Despite France and Chile dominating nearly 75% of the market, Vietnam still imports wines amounting to around $800,000 USD. Although not exceptional, this amount is significant and can serve as a foundation to increase our presence in this market.

The wine market in Vietnam is characterized by various distinctive features, including a list of “reference prices” used for taxation purposes if the wine’s price is below the listed price, a licensing system limited by province and population, and complex documentation requirements for registration and importation. Despite these challenges, the wine market is expanding at an estimated annual rate of 7 to 10%. Exporting countries continue to target this market due to a consumer base with increasing purchasing power interested in exploring new products.

While Vietnam produces wine from fruit or rice, grape-derived wine, around 6 million liters, is imported. The demand, initially seasonal and tied to major celebrations, is becoming more consistent. This shift is partly due to an emerging class associating wine consumption with social status and an increasing number of tourists and expatriates. The role of importers and distributors in key cities like Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, Da Nang, Vinh Long, and Nha Trang is crucial in meeting this growing demand through imports.

2. Market:

Wine importation in Vietnam faces tariff and tax barriers similar to other Southeast Asian markets, along with administrative practices that sometimes complicate the import process. The current tariff, according to the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement, stands at 31.20% of the CIF price until its complete elimination by 2027. Taxes include a 35% special tax on wine and a 10% value-added tax, both calculated based on the CIF price.

In addition to tariffs and taxes, certain administrative practices affect the final price. These include the previously mentioned “reference prices” setting minimum prices for some wines regardless of their commercial invoice prices; restrictions in cities like Ho Chi Minh City on advertising alcoholic beverages exceeding 4.5% alcohol content; limitations on sending non-commercial samples to importers; and labels in Vietnamese with standard information on product origin and content.

Apart from tariff and tax barriers, commercial margins (distributors and wholesalers: 10-15%; retail stores: 20-25%; Horeca channel: between 70 and 200%) further increase the final price, potentially up to 400% for a wine originally priced at €10. The average price of a bottle of red wine -the most consumed type- ranges between €3 and €15, with significantly higher values for certain French or Italian wines -and some Spanish wines like Vega Sicilia- especially reserves or grand reserves.

3. Strategy:

Spanish wine, although not widely known among the general public, is valued by importers and distributors in Vietnam for its quality and price. However, there is a disconnect between Spanish wineries and Vietnamese importers and distributors when it comes to promoting Spanish wine to the general public. Lack of coordinated promotional campaigns planned in advance and executed consistently results in limited marketing efforts, mostly confined to sporadic presentations at Southeast Asian wine market fairs and exhibitions.

CONCLUSIONS OF THE SOUTHEAST ASIAN WINE MARKET

1.- This article provides a brief overview based on official information, author’s experience in the Southeast Asian wine market, and AVCO LEGAL’s presence in Southeast Asia. It should be complemented with additional data covering the analyzed aspects more comprehensively.

2.- The examined regulations, especially concerning tariffs and taxes, should be regularly reviewed. They do not substitute legal advice or consultation.

3.- Spanish wines are of high quality but lack effective commercial strategies compared to French and Italian wines due to insufficient planning, coordination with local importers/distributors, and continuity over time.

4.- The challenges posed by the Asian wine market should not deter foreign exporters as they offer numerous business opportunities amidst growing wine consumption trends.

5.- European wines like French and Italian wines are successfully penetrating Asian markets prompting reflection on why Spanish wines lag behind and how this issue can be addressed.

6.- In summary, the Southeast Asian wine market presents promising growth opportunities driven by an expanding upper-middle class’s demand for wine. To obtain more information about the markets of the Philippines and Malaysia, I invite you to read our post: OPPORTUNITIES AND CHALLENGES IN THE WINE MARKET IN ASIA: ASEAN COUNTRIES (I).

Antonio Viñal
Lawyer
AVCO Legal
madrid@avco.legal