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Learning to love the taste of 'fire'

By He Qi in Shanghai | China Daily | Updated: 2020-09-11 07:20
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Participants enjoy baijiu, or white spirits, at a masterclass on World Baijiu Day at Healer Bar in Shanghai on Aug 9. The bar was one of many venues around the world that took part in the festival. [Photo by He Qi/China Daily]

"It is amazing that we have so many cities participating this year despite the pandemic. Some cities, like Melbourne, which is on lockdown, aren't able to hold offline events, but they still participated by holding online ones," says Boyce.

"We had far more people sending messages and photos showing them celebrating World Baijiu Day at home, sipping baijiu, making cocktails or simply enjoying it with lunch or dinner. That was nice to see."

According to market consultancy iiMedia Research, the national sales revenue of major baijiu enterprises above designated scale was 492.74 billion yuan ($71 billion) from January to November of 2019, a year-on-year increase of 19.9 percent. Baijiu accounted for 66.7 percent of the overall alcoholic-beverage sales in the nation.

National baijiu enterprises above designated scale produced over 5 million kiloliters from January to August, an increase of 1.27 percent year-on-year, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.

However, even though China's baijiu production accounts for nearly 40 percent of global liquor production, its international market share is less than 8 percent.

But the market share looks poised to grow further in the coming years as brands like Moutai have been increasing their foothold in overseas markets.

According to an article in The Drinks Business, an online magazine about the alcohol industry, Moutai has been promoting its brand in countries like Germany, South Africa and other nations involved with the Belt and Road since the launch of the initiative.

The company, one of China's most prolific baijiu producers, also "expects to increase its overseas sales to take up to 10 percent of its total sales by 2020", the article states.

AFP also previously reported that Moutai earned 2.89 billion yuan from overseas sales in 2018, up 27 percent year-on-year.

The spirit is also getting more popular among foreigners in China, and this could translate to them exporting their love for baijiu beyond Chinese borders, says Han.

"I think as the knowledge of this great spirit increases among foreigners, so does its popularity," says Logan Brouse, the founder of Logan's Punch bar in Shanghai, another venue that celebrated World Baijiu Day.

"Just like tequila, many have had bad experiences with baijiu. I believe this is because they have never had much of the good stuff. Baijiu, when drank with friends, is an amazing and delicious experience and most foreigners are beginning to see that now as well," he says.

Cai Xuefei, an analyst in the baijiu industry, says that getting more of the world to consume baijiu would require not just greater quantities of the spirit being shipped out, but also a concerted effort to integrate the spirit into mainstream culture and educate the public about its complexity and beauty.

Last, but not least, there is also a need to focus on exporting not just the spirit itself, but China's drinking culture.

"In foreign countries, the focus is more on bar culture and the individual," says Cai.

"In China, what matters more is getting together. In other words, foreigners get together to drink. Chinese drink because we get together."

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