It may come as a surprise to some that New Zealand wines have been experiencing stellar growth in Singapore, so much so that the little red dot is New Zealand’s largest export market for its wine in the whole of Southeast Asia.
According to New Zealand Trade and Enterprise (NZTE) – the country’s international business development agency that helps its companies explore and expand overseas – export values for New Zealand beverages to Singapore in the year to March 2015 totalled SGD22.9million, a 24.6% increase in the last two years. Of that, wine has been the brightest spark, leading the charge with a 26.7% increase in export value in the same period – a testament to growing international popularity for New Zealand wine.
And that growth is not limited to Singapore, which is New Zealand’s 7th largest trading partner, or even Southeast Asia. NZTE revealed that in the past two decades its wine exports grew four times the rate of all its merchandise exports, hitting total annual exports of NZD1.3 billion in 2014. But Asian markets are a key focus for many New Zealand wineries as they look to grow their business beyond its traditional markets of Australia, the UK, the United States and Canada.
Consider the experience of Auckland-based wine company Villa Maria. Beam Suntory, which distributes Villa Maria wines in Singapore, first projected sales of 1,200 cases when they first introduced the brand here in Singapore. That grew to 1,800 cases in 2013, and depletions in 2014 already hit that 1,800 by September that year. “Singaporeans can’t get enough of (Villa Maria’s sauvignon blanc),” Kevin Tan, assistant wine manager at Beam Global Asia, told us last year.
“Here in Singapore, the key varieties are sauvignon blanc and pinot noir. New Zealand sauvignon blanc is recognised as among the best in the world, with New Zealand red wines challenging their old world counterparts,” shared Tony Robinson, New Zealand’s trade commissioner to Singapore. “Singapore is the biggest export market for New Zealand wine and Southeast Asia, with growth of nearly one-third in just the past two years. We owe this stellar growth to the close relationships we have built with the food and beverage industry here and look forward broadening them even further in the near future.”
Even fluctuations of the New Zealand dollar hasn’t affected the popularity of New Zealand wines. “The value of the New Zealand dollar versus the Singapore dollar has been relatively consistent over the last few years – around NZD$1 to SGD$1. So while the strong dollar has had little effect on the popularity of New Zealand wines in Singapore, the reputation of New Zealand wines worldwide has been much more influential and exports are growing very quickly,” Robinson added.
Of course, New Zealand wines are still not quite as popular as their Australian counterparts yet in Singapore. Australian wines continue to dominate the market here in terms of volume – it also saw wine exports to Singapore grew 37% year-on-year to hit AUD$59 million in 2014 – with every two out of five bottles of wine drunk locally made Down Under. But those growth numbers are very encouraging, and a reason to celebrate.