China Opens Its Doors to Tequila
Mexico's tequila-makers are hoping to conquer a massive new market.
Now that China has finally re-opened its doors to tequila, Mexican drink-makers are hoping to export lots—and lots, and lots—of tequila to the world's most populous country. This week, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto signed a bilateral agreement allowing import of "pure agave" tequila into China for the first time since 2008. The country had limited import of the spirit due to legal and sanitary restrictions, allowing only lower quality "mixto" tequila containing 51% agave sugar. But Chinese health authorities changed their rules last week and determined that pure tequila has no detrimental health effects. Currently, margarita-loving Americans consume 80% of the world's tequila—even beating out Mexico. But China—with its 1.3 billion inhabitants—could present a promising new market for tequila producers, and many are hopeful that the spirit will take off. "It's a Mexican product that will conquer the preferences of Chinese consumers," says Ramon Gonzalez, director of Mexico's tequila promotion council. "The potential of this industry is that in five years, we can reach 10 million liters in exports."
Patrón—one of the world's biggest tequila makers—has already begun exploring how to cater to its new consumers by researching Chinese culture. "We hire people there to look at their customs, culture, gastronomy, to see how they pair their meals to bring out the best tasting experience," says David Rodriguez, Patrón production director based in Jalisco state. China's most popular alcoholic drinks are beer and a strong traditional Chinese spirit called baijiu, and 95% of the hard alcohol consumed in the country is produced there. Though tequila will have competition by Chinese drink-makers, Rodriguez believes the spirit has a strong chance of success because of its "western" appeal. "The Asian markets are seeking to westernize when it comes to prestigious brands, the brands consumers aspire to," he says. "I'm convinced that we're going to be very successful."