Baijiu is by far the most popular spirit in China – along with rice-based wines – but as it is mostly drunk locally, European consumers find it hard to grasp the significance of the industry, unless they live in China, in which case it is hard to avoid.
By comparison, imported spirits still only account for a tiny fraction of the overall market. In 2014, The IWSR estimates that baijiu consumption reached 1.18bn cases for a total value of just under $80bn, equating to nearly 38% of global spirits consumption, although statistics are difficult to check. By comparison, the highest-volume international category, vodka, recorded 480m cases globally in 2014 and the most valuable, whisk(e)y, posted total global sales of $62bn.
The most valuable baijiu brand, Kweichow Moutai, sold an estimated 2.25m cases in 2014 at a price of around $150, making it by far the best-selling ultra-premium brand.