PARIS (Reuters) - China is set to overtake Britain and France to become the world's second-largest wine consumer by value behind the United States by 2020 as consumers turn to more middle-range wines, the International Wine & Spirit Research (IWSR) organization said on Thursday.
In a study for wine fair Vinexpo it forecast Chinese wine consumption by value would rise by 40 percent between 2016 and 2020 to nearly $22 billion, still far below the United States where demand is set to grow by 12 pct over the period to $39 billion.
In volume, however, China would remain the fifth largest consumer of wine, both sparkling and still, behind the United States, which took the top position from France in 2013, Germany and Italy, the study showed.
With the market for business gifts evaporating under the crackdown on corruption, the Chinese market is now driven by real consumption, which extends to a rapidly expanding middle class, Vinexpo Director Guillaume Deglise told Reuters.
The market is becoming more democratic, especially with the surge of online sales in medium-sized cities, and benefits mostly middle-range wines, he added.
The wine trade also enjoys increasing interest from younger generations and women who have no appetite for the strong distilled drinks such as baiju which have made China by far the world's top consumer of spirits, ahead of India.
To meet the growing demand, still wine imports into China are expected to jump by nearly 80 percent to 94.5 million nine-litre cases by the end of the decade, IWSR said.
(Reporting by Sybille de La Hamaide and Pascale Denis; Editing by Greg Mahlich)