The recent economic growth of Asian countries has generated a great demand for imports of intermediate and primary commodities as consumer behavior and consumption patterns shift. One such commodity is grape wine. The grape wine industry, which has held a small presence in the East Asian region until recently, has seen a rapid growth in the Asian market. Increased alcohol consumption in Asian countries has created many opportunities for exporting wine industries around the world in the last few years. The wine market in China, for example, is currently valued at over US $10 billion, and is predicted to reach US $19 billion by 2016 [1
]. Less populous but prosperous countries, such as Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Korea have also seen a rise in wine consumption, in particular premium wines [2
]. Seven out of 15 top-ranked countries, in terms of unit value of wine imports, were Asian countries with Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan ranked amongst the top five [2
Winemakers must be consumer-oriented to enable them to have a strong footing in the Asian wine market. An important aspect of being consumer-orientated is understanding the purchase motivations for particular products. Given that motivations are linked to consumers’ deep-seated values, it is crucial for winemakers to understand the most important underlying personal values that underpin consumption behavior. In this study, the means–end chain framework is used to explore the underlying personal values of consumers from two East-Asian countries that show great potential for growth in forthcoming years, Taiwan and Malaysia. These understandings will in turn, help to understand consumers’ needs and wants with regards to wine consumption. Specifically, the overall objective of this research is to understand how Taiwanese and Malaysian consumers’ personal values influence their consumption decisions about wine. The sub-objectives are twofold: (1) to contribute to the understanding of means–end chain literature related to food purchasing processes by exploring the influence of Taiwanese and Malaysian culture on means–end chain for wine choice; and (2) to offer practitioner-orientated suggestions to wine exporters interested in targeting the East Asian countries—Taiwan and Malaysia.
Taiwan and Malaysia were the chosen East-Asian countries for four reasons. Firstly, they both look set to experience increased wine sales in forthcoming years. Secondly, the research was conducted in New Zealand and a recent agreement which allows New Zealand wine to have tariff-free access to Taiwan gave the researchers an even more compelling reason to understand the underlying values which drive Taiwanese consumers’ wine consumption decisions. Thirdly, Malaysia was included in the study for cross cultural purposes and was an obvious choice given the cultural understanding and linguistic capability of the second author who is born Chinese Malaysian. Lastly and importantly, the motives of wine drinkers from these countries have received almost no academic attention in the Western literature.
In order to be able to understand the most important underlying personal values that underpin consumption behavior, means–end chain theory and “laddering” methodology, developed to identify means–ends chains, were deemed to be the most appropriate tools to use. There are a few studies that have investigated a wider range of values in relation to East Asian consumption behaviors or wine drinking behaviors. In laddering only the relevant behaviors are predefined in the research and the values are uncovered by repeated questioning or probing about why particular things are done or are seen to be important. The behavior (means to the end) is first described by the respondent who is then probed as to “why” they behave in that way. This normally uncovers some conscious rationalization of the behavior and this rationalization is then probed as to why that is important to the individual. The underlying reasons, where a respondent can genuinely articulate them, can be associated with their fundamental underlying values. Ultimately, the aim of the questioning was to get participants to think critically about what their motivations were for the wine purchase behaviors, thereby allowing the interviewers to identify the underlying drivers or barriers for the behaviors. In the remainder of this section, a brief overview of the Taiwanese and Malaysian wine markets is firstly presented before moving on to consider the extant literature on Asian consumers’ wine behaviors. The theoretical framework, means–end chain, is then introduced and discussed with regards to culture. Findings from the extant literature on the key attributes, consequences and values driving non-Asian wine behaviors are then provided.
1.1. Taiwanese Wine Market
Given a paucity of academic literature on Taiwanese consumers’ wine drinking habits, the following summary of the Taiwanese wine market is based on a review of the Australian Trade Commission (2015) report [3
] which provides the most up-to-date market intelligence available. The current data shows the total population in Taiwan in 2014 is 23.36 million [4
]. Wine constitutes less than 25% of the total value of alcohol consumption in Taiwan (with whisky mostly imported from Scotland generally being a more popular choice). Despite this, Taiwan is still Asia’s fifth largest consumer of wine. In the past six years, overall wine consumption has grown at a rate of 8.6 per cent per annum. Moreover, wine sales in Taiwan are forecasted to continue to increase in conjunction with a rise in living standards and increased cosmopolitanism, as professionals and women join the ranks of high income earners that enjoy consuming wine.
Taiwanese consumers generally have a preference for red over white wine, with 48% of the import volume consisting of cabernet sauvignon or similar blends. There is also a general preference for full bodied wines compared to light bodied wines. Even though the current wine market shows that warm climate wines are better received than cooler climate wines, there is an increasing appreciation for cool climate wines.
Special attention has also been given to the preference of wine bottle and label design, with a preference for slimmer or reserve tapered bottles compared to short and light bottles. Taiwanese consumers also have a general preference for natural cork compared to other methods of corkage such as synthetic cork or screw cap, although a growing acceptance on screw cap has been observed. Drinking habits are reported to be changing as most new consumers have yet to develop a fixed preference for the source of wine. A recent report by Global Agricultural Information Network has also contended a growing interest in sweeter wines with unique history backgrounds, such as ice wine [5
1.2. Malaysian Wine Market
According to New Zealand Trade and Enterprise [6
], Malaysia comprises of a population of 27.7 million people and approximately 65% Malay, 27% Chinese and eight percent Indian. The Malays are predominantly Muslim, and due to religious reasons, they are not permitted to consume alcoholic drinks. However, the Malaysian Chinese who make up around seven million of the population, form a firm target base for imported wine [6
The report [6
] also contended that the wine drinking culture in Malaysia will become more popular over the next few years. Wines are becoming more commonly accepted at international outlets, where the foods served are steaks or other international cuisine.
However, wine is still not commonly consumed in most Malaysian households as wines are generally considered as “social drink”, and are only usually consumed during special occasions. On an interesting note, the consumption of red wine in Malaysia has increased over the recent years, mainly due to the perceived health benefits of drinking red wine [8
According to this report [8
], economy wine brands attract consumers by using marketing means, such as competitive pricing and promotions, for example buy-one-get-one-free and free gifts. Additionally, premium brands are packaged and positioned as being high quality products and are promoted during special events such as wine tastings in high class restaurants and hotels. It has also been noted that private label brands remained very limited [7
1.3. Chinese Wine Market
While current research on Taiwanese and Malaysian wine drinking behaviors has come from Trade Commission reports, academic attention has been given to the Chinese wine drinking market. Given Taiwan and Malaysia are more culturally and historically similar to China than to other Western countries where the bulk of research on wine consumption has been conducted to date, the information available in existing literature in the Chinese context was examined as well in order to obtain further possible insights relevant to the populations of interest for this study. A research study found that the Chinese community typically has poor general knowledge about wine with two thirds of the participants, being unaware of the existence of white wine [9
]. Similarly, Fu [10
] has noted that most Chinese think red wine represents the entire wine category.
According to Liu and Murphy [9
], Chinese consumers consume red wine for special occasions such as Chinese (Lunar) New Year and other special holidays. Red wine is the wine of choice and is consumed during these occasions. Red wine, for instance, is an auspicious color in the Chinese culture, associated with happiness and celebrations, whereas white is considered as an unlucky color, often associated with funerals and death. Chinese consumers also consume red wine for its image portrayal, which is considered trendy and shows that the consumer has good taste, all of which would contribute to having “Mian Zi” (face). Both Liu and Murphy [9
] and Balestrini and Gamble [11
] found that having limited wine knowledge meant that Chinese consumers would typically rely on the extrinsic cues of wine, such as price and country of origin, to help them make their choice, instead of more intrinsic cues such as taste.
1.4. Introduction and Overview of the Means–End Chain Theoretical Model
The means–end chain model is a theoretical model which allows researchers to understand how attributes, consequences and values can be systematically categorized to form a simple network of association [12
]. Researchers are able to observe and understand how the attribute of a product can be used to meet the personal value of an individual, hence understanding the reason a consumer might choose a certain product attribute. The concept of levels of abstraction is embodied in this means–end chain framework: attribute has the lowest level of abstraction, is linked to consequence, which has a higher level of abstraction, and in turn is linked to value, which has the highest level of abstraction [12
]. Given that the perception of food is widely and deeply influenced by culture, food and beverage preferences between cultures can differ widely [13
]. In order to gain full understanding of the influence of culture in this means–end chain model, Overby and colleagues [14
] developed the means–end chain framework to include the influence of culture. The inclusion of analyzing the influence of culture in all parts of the attribute, consequence and value ladders allows researchers to understand how consumers organize their thoughts and structure their knowledge about a product [15
] and should therefore be used in cross-cultural studies. Overby and colleagues used this framework to understand wine choice in a cross-cultural context, in a comparative study between American and French consumers’ wine consumption behaviors [14
]. Additionally, this model has been previously shown to be a useful tool for analyzing consumer behavior in the food domain [16
]. The current study extended on Overby and colleagues’ cross cultural wine drinking [14
] work by investigating wine consumption habits in an East Asian context (Taiwanese and Malaysian). It is important to first consider available literature on the attributes consequences and values driving non-Asian wine behaviors for purpose of comparative purposes.
1.5. Extant Literature on the Key Attributes Consequences and Values Driving Non-Asian Wine Behaviors
A previous means–end chain study investigating New Zealander’s wine purchase motivations [22
] revealed that for the New Zealand participants, the primary attribute that drove consumers to purchase and consume wine was “Sensory Aspects” of wine, followed by “Price” and “Occasion”. All three of these attributes were surface level characteristics that are typically associated to the purchase of alcohol [23
]. These considerations have been found in the literature to appear in more general food purchase decisions as well [24
]. These aforementioned attributes were justified at the next level of abstraction by various consequences, such as “Financial Considerations”, “Assuring Quality” and “Satisfying Senses”. Two major Schwartz’s values that appeared in the New Zealand participants’ Hierarchical Value Maps were “Hedonism” and “Achievement”. The first of these values indicates that New Zealand consumers are highly driven by enjoyment and pleasure when consuming wine. The second of these values indicates that they also aspire to achieve their goals through having wine qualities that meet their expectations.
Next, the study’s methodology and findings are presented and the paper concludes by making marketing recommendations for practitioners.
4. Practical Marketing Implications and Recommendations
The Hierarchical Value Maps have revealed that both cultural groups have elicited a sizable amount of attributes, consequences and values associated to their wine choice. As expected, some similarities were shown within the Taiwanese and Malaysian Hierarchical Value Maps. The two Hierarchical Value Maps depicted several similar dominant attributes, such as “Price” and “Sensory Aspects” of wine, consequences such as “Satisfying Senses”, “Assure Quality”, and the values “Hedonism” and “Achievement” and “Self Direction”. The well-known marketing 4P framework [42
] is now used to explain the practical marketing implications derived from these results. Each of the 4P’s in the framework (i.e.
, Product, Price, Promotion, and Place) and their relevant resulting implications are discussed in turn.
The Product refers to the items purchased by the consumer, in this case, wine. This may include all the attributes associated to the wine, such as packaging, type of wine, year, or brand that are sold with it. Recognizable wine labels were found to be one of the important criteria for both Taiwanese and Malaysian participants. These consumers particularly looked for brands they are exposed to or brands that have been heavily endorsed by friends or known media, such as blogs. Wine exporters targeting the foodservice (restaurant) sector will therefore have to be prepared to spend time and money creating brand recognition in these countries for their products’ labels. Given the expense of television advertising, and the importance endorsements by friends, this is perhaps best done through the use of social media. A “Facebook” site that allows followers to “like” the product and then encourage its followers to forward the site onto their friends through internet competitions or promotion specials, would be one such example of how a company could work on building the required brand recognition. Companies also need to ensure that once they have established a well-known brand and a resulting foothold in the wine market, that they remain consistent in their labeling overtime given this importance on recognizable brand labels.
Instead of considering strongly the physical attributes of wine such as wine type, Taiwanese and Malaysian consumers usually rely on price and recommendations to determine their purchase. Due to the lack of an active search for wine information, a simplified labeling system (e.g., with a scale to indicate the sweetness level of wine or its flavor spectrum) may encourage these consumers to be more involved in their wine purchase decisions, as they will be able to be more in control in terms of choosing their wines for themselves, instead of relying on price cues and recommendations from the waiter. By empowering these East Asian consumers with the basic knowledge of how to make their own decisions on wine, it might encourage them to play a more active role in searching for information when buying wine in the future.
Consistent with another study’s finding [10
], the current study revealed that East Asians generally prefer red wine over white wine due to exposure, traditional beliefs, and general liking for stronger tastes. The results do indicate however, that there is market potential for white wines. Successful introduction of white wines might be enhanced by exposing consumers to the wines by food pairing to increase their knowledge and familiarity of white wines, especially in younger age groups. The reason for targeting young working class groups is due to their enthusiasm and willingness to try new things. By using food pairing, the participants can learn the important elements in wine which would complement food, thus fulfilling their need to broaden their knowledge. This would provide the consumers with sensory satisfaction from sampling different wine-food combinations. While such awareness and behavioral change initiatives will be important to grow this product sector, it is also important that the emphases of such promotions are now of turning white wine drinking into more than a fashionable trend. Although most Taiwanese and Malaysians are trend-focused, and while this may thus result in short-term successes, it will not be feasible over the long run if the desired outcome is sustained growth of this market.
Most participants mentioned that good wine packaging is very important and they placed a strong emphasis on this to help them make their choice. A display of the selling point of the wine (such as the country of origin), an indication that the wine is a premium product, or a classy design label, would allow the consumer to display the wine bottle on the table, thus allowing him or her to have “Mian Zi” (face) among his or her guests.
Both Taiwanese and Malaysian participants showed specific sensory preferences for wines that are sweeter and they mentioned they would prefer fruitier tasting wine as compared to other wine tastes. Wines with lower alcohol content were also said to be preferred by many of these participants. This is linked to the fact that the participants often drink wine in a restaurant to enhance their “Mian Zi” but not necessarily for the taste. Hence, by modifying the drinks to suit the East Asian palates would allow these consumers to have a pleasant wine drinking experience and would subsequently encourage brand loyalty. Furthermore, East Asian’s general lower tolerance for alcohol means that having lighter wine alcohol content would allow East Asian consumers to have a choice to opt for a healthier option of wine.
Price is the amount that consumers indicated that they would be prepared to pay for the wine. Many Taiwanese and Malaysian participants pointed out that price was a major influencing attribute that helped determine their wine purchase decision in the restaurant setting. Among the Taiwanese participants, price was considered to be a mark of quality, therefore there seemed to be a fairly common agreement that they would be willing to spend a bit more to help ensure that a quality wine was purchased.
Several studies have highlighted a situation where many consumers from East Asian countries had limited knowledge of wines, a situation echoed by the research findings of this study. The lack of knowledge of wine created the situation where the price of wine was used by participants as an indicator for quality of wine, instead of the intrinsic factors of the wine itself. Many of these participants interviewed pointed out that they commonly used price as a guideline for quality assurance to ensure wines to be within their acceptable quality range, and they often assumed that the higher the price, the better the quality. However, as mentioned before, this might not necessarily mean that they would purchase and consume wines that are of the highest price range, due to their discipline in prioritizing the use of money. Imported wines from Western countries are generally the wine of choice for these participants due to their perception of class and quality. Therefore, the price-related marketing implication is to offer consumers in these markets wines that are within the mid-high range of price in the wine market in these two countries with special attention given to the packaging to evoke class and quality.
Promotion is the marketing of wine and all the activities which support wine selling. Considering the Taiwanese and Malaysian participants often mentioned that they generally consumed wine during celebrations, it is important for exporters to be aware of celebratory occasions, such as Lunar New Year, where wine would be consumed, to ensure intensive promotions of wines during these times. Offering limited edition wines with elements of the celebration such as having one of the zodiac signs on the labels for each Lunar New Year, or with offering wines with unique flavor to the occasion, such as having mandarin orange flavor notes (mandarin orange is also considered as an auspicious fruit among the Taiwanese and Malaysian Chinese community, especially during Lunar New Year) in wine for Lunar New Year, may appeal to the interest of these consumers.
Offering sponsorship or funding to community events may increase the product awareness of such wines. Wine has been viewed as a high-class drink, and is often only drunk in more sophisticated social events which are in contrast to beer (which is a more common beverage of choice in Asia and is drunk in almost any event including at concerts, parties, and sports bars). Sponsoring community events such as sports events would not only increase awareness of this product, but also helps the participants form an associative connection between wines and casual good times, and emphasizes the fact that it is not just a product to be consumed in a restaurant or special celebration.
Health is another selling point for wines. Many of the health-oriented East Asians stated that they drunk red wines to improve their health, as they believe in its various health benefits in improving blood circulation and heart disease preventions. Echoing Benedictine D.O.M., a liqueur made by Bacardi, which targeted mothers who are in confinement (Asian women are usually not allowed to leave the house for a month after giving birth), red wines could be advertised as a healthier alcohol option to middle-aged consumers, as there were already relevant clinical studies showing the benefits of drinking red wine in middle-aged groups. Also, this is the age group that expressed more concerned about their health.
Taiwanese participants identified “Broadening Knowledge” as one of the consequences which influenced their wine-purchasing behavior. This means that the Taiwanese associate seeking knowledge while consuming wine as part of a good drinking experience. By providing information on how wines are produced, the history of wine production, or information on the health benefits from drinking an appropriate amount of wine can gain the attention of these Taiwanese consumers. This can be done either by enclosing a booklet with the wine packaging, or by giving proper training to the waiters for them to present the knowledge surrounding wine to the Taiwanese patrons in the restaurant or events where wine is served.
In a highly collectivistic community, such as Malaysia and Taiwan, trend-following is not a surprising phenomenon to observe among these two cultures. Peer pressure and their cultural predisposition to discourage bringing attention to themselves by being unique or different, lead these consumers to aspire to follow the status quo of the community. By having trends that are considered fashionable would drive these consumers to like mainstream product better, compared to products that are unique or special. As the emphasis on individualistic image is not as strong, as compared to the Western countries, the effort to making wine products unique and personalized should not be given as much attention as with the West. Instead, promoting “Best Selling” wines may increase the chance of individuals purchasing and consuming wines, rather than promoting a product which targets a niche.
Place refers to where the wine is being sold (i.e., in a social environment, restaurant). From this study, it appeared that most of the East Asian participants associate wine drinking as a joyous affair. Wines are commonly purchased and consumed during weddings, New Year, Lunar New Year, birthdays, anniversaries and other occasions to which a large number of guests are invited. Using wines as toasts are common in both these cultures, as it encourages a happy atmosphere and convivial spirit amongst the celebrants. Taking into account that most Taiwanese and Malaysian participants have a tendency to hold huge celebrations and feasts during these occasions, it is wise to offer specials or promotions in restaurants or catering services where participants may purchase bulk wines for cheaper prices.
Red wine is usually offered during these special occasions, regardless of the dishes served. White wines are sometimes offered during these occasions, and they are less likely to be consumed due to the lack of exposure and knowledge. Even though there is an overall lack of wine knowledge compared to Western consumers, the interviewed participants still stated that they were able to discriminate good or bad wine pairing. Therefore, it is important to not overlook this aspect when promoting wine.
Additionally, marketers who are interested in venturing into Asian markets have to have background knowledge on how food is usually served in Asian restaurants, where special occasions are usually celebrated and where wines are generally consumed. East Asian cultures typically practice communal eating and a Chinese restaurant would usually serve a variety of food on the same time. This means that there would be different types of meats, chicken or fish on the same time. It is highly different from the West, where meals are usually served individually and generally consist of appetizer, main and dessert. This makes it difficult to determine proper wine pairing. Having recommendations on the label itself, designed by wine specialists or connoisseurs who are also used to the Eastern cuisine would assist the consumers in making wiser wine choices. Another way of doing so is by recommending restaurants to promote food and wine packages, where the menu would have two different types of wines (red and white) served to complement each dish. The restaurant could also slow down the time for each sequential dish to be served, to allow enough time for the participants to savor each meal with complementary wines.
While this study focused on a restaurant setting to evoke attributes, consequences and values of wine consumption, there are obviously other retail outlets that sell wine including the increasingly popular wine shops and wine bars in Taiwan and Malaysia. As the results indicated that both cultures held a common interest to pursue knowledge about wines while enjoying them, it is worthwhile for retailers in these settings to provide tips and information about the origin of the wine, the wine making process, wine storage, and other general knowledge about wine for consumers to read at the point of purchase. Exporting companies are recommended to provide this information via brochures, posters and other such information media for display in such setting to accompany their products on the shelves.