Kiwi launch the first step in world marketing campaign for China’s ‘national liquor’, Moutai baijiu.

It's the drink of choice for China's Communist Party leaders and it's the spirit Mao Zedong and his comrades used to toast the founding of the People's Republic in 1949.

Now the Chinese want to turn the world into Moutai baijiu drinkers - starting with New Zealand.

With the help of China-backed organisation the World Alcohol Beverage Alliance (Waba), Moutai will be launched in Auckland on June 9 at its first summit outside the mainland.

"We believe liquor is linked to culture. Just like Scotch whisky is to Scotland and sake to Japan, Moutai is intricately linked to the Chinese culture," said Olive Chen, Waba's overseas operations manager.

Advertisement

Moutai baijiu, a distilled Chinese spirit, is produced by state-owned Kweichow Moutai Company in China's Guizhou province. It is distilled from fermented sorghum, containing 53 per cent alcohol by volume, and comes in several varieties.

It was named China's "national liquor" in 1951, two years after the company was founded and is now a mainstay at almost every state function and banquet dinners.

"Appreciating Moutai is therefore like appreciating the Chinese culture," Chen said.

"The company plans to popularise Moutai in the western world, and New Zealand will be a fantastic test market."

In China, Moutai is so popular there is often a buying frenzy and queues are often found wherever bottles - priced upwards of $170 - are available.

Its main Flying Fairy brand is sold to distributors for 969 yuan ($218) with a suggested resale ceiling of $338 - but it usually sells for double that - online and off. An 80-year-old bottle was listed on shopping site JD.com for $44,500.

China's Li Tong, last year's Patron Perfectionists Cocktail Competition champion, will be brought in to help to promote the liquor in Auckland.

She has created a cocktail that shows off the spirit, called "Running Kiwi", which will be on SkyCity's Huami bar menu.

Advertisement

The company has set an ambitious goal of $678 million in sales this year, rising to $2.26 billion by 2020.

China specialist Massey University Associate Professor in Marketing Henry Chung was "very glad" to see Moutai entering the New Zealand market and using it as a test market was a smart move.

"Moutai has potential in western markets, and New Zealand should offer entry into major western countries like the USA, United Kingdom and Australia," Chung said.

"I think their aim is to create a Chinese version of vodka, which is a global product now."

If successful, Chung said it could lead to other Asian liquor brands, such as Taiwan's Kinmen Kaoliang, also entering the market.

Sales executive Josh Evans, a regular vodka drinker who tried Moutai baijiu for the first time last week in Auckland, thought it had potential.

He described the taste as "spicy, burning but with a sweet aftertaste".

"It's strong I tell you. You wouldn't find me with a bottle at my bedside, but at a bar, yeah, possibly," Evans said.