Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi visited Alibaba Group’s Xixi headquarters in Hangzhou, China, on Sunday, making a push for the Italian wines sold on the company’s business-to-consumer marketplace Tmall.com.
Rodrigo Cipriani Foresio, Alibaba’s country manager for Italy, Spain and Greece, noted that more than 50 Italian wine brands currently sell to China through Tmall, totaling about 500 types of wine. That’s up from just one brand five months ago.
There are plans to continue to increase that number, Foresio said. Italy comprises 6 percent of all the wine sold on Alibaba’s e-commerce platforms but the company was working with Italian wineries to find ways to bring the figure up to 50 percent, he said. France is the current market leader for the wine sold through Alibaba with 55 percent.
Alibaba Executive Chairman Jack Ma first announced Alibaba’s plan to bring Italian wines to China through the company’s e-commerce platforms in April during a panel session with Renzi at the Vinitaly wine expo in Verona.
“Alibaba wants to be the gateway to China for Italian brands and small businesses,” Ma said at Vinitaly, which is the world’s largest wine expo.
Ma said at the time that many of Italy’s vintner’s would have the chance to reach Chinese consumers through Tmall’s 9.9 Global Wine & Spirits Festival, which will be held next Friday. All the wineries currently selling on Tmall will be listed on a special Italian Pavilion page on the site during the festival, Alibaba said today.
Once a trend popular among only China’s wealthy elite, wine has since caught on with the country’s roughly 152 million middle-class consumers. Those in so-called first-tier cities such as Beijing and Shanghai, as well as Chinese twentysomethings, are the main demographics driving this growth, according to market researcher Wine Intelligence. The U.K.-based firm estimated that 48 million people in China drank imported wine last year, up 26 percent from 38 million in 2014.
In addition to wine, over 100 Italian brands selling their products on Tmall and cross-border e-commerce platform Tmall Global in the autos, food and apparel sector. Chocolatier Ferrero, clothing retailer The Luxer and luxury vehicle company Maserati all sell through the sites. In March, Maserati sold 100 Levante sport utility vehicles in 18 seconds during its Super Brand Day promotion. The base model of the SUV retails for $72,000.
Renzi was in Hangzhou for the G20 summit happening in the Chinese city, and his delegation was one of many to visit Alibaba’s headquarters in the Xixi area of Hangzhou over the weekend. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had visited the campus on Saturday, launching a new Canadian Pavilion on Tmall Global and signing a memorandum of understanding to boost the flow of goods between Canada and China via e-commerce.