When Costco established its first store in China in 2019, it wasn’t just discounted Birkin bags and the hot rotisserie chickens that attracted frenzied crowds. A burning, throat-tingling liquor called Kweichow Moutai also flew off shelves.
It costs 1,498 yuan or $209 for a 500ml bottle. It might not sound like the kind of deal Costco shoppers usually go for-, but it was in this case. That price represented a huge discount over Moutai sold elsewhere. The premium spirit is so popular in China; it sold out quickly.
Moutai Baijiu- the name of liquor the company produces- is a potent, clear spirit that’s been dubbed “firewater” because it’s 53% alcohol. The white-and-red bottles of its flagship product, “Flying Fairy” or “Feitian,” are a staple at Chinese state business and banquets events.
Even amidst the pandemic, Kweichow Moutai, the company that makes the designative liquor, had a great year. Its stock increased by around 70% on the Shanghai Stock Exchange in 2020. The company, which is part publicly-traded and part state-owned, is China’s most significant firm outside of technology. With worth more than the nation’s four biggest banks.
Internationally, its market cap has exceeded all other alcohol distillers like Constellation and Diego brands. Including Coca-Cola, which had long held the throne as the world’s largest beverage maker. Valued at $421 billion, Kweichow Moutai is worth more than Nike, Toyota, and Disney.
Ben Cavender, the Shanghai-based managing director of China Market Research Group, said, “Anytime they have any stock of the liquor available, it’s going to be gone almost instantly. You’ll see people screaming for it.”
Apart from the Chinese people, however, Moutai is still practically unknown overseas. According to its financial reports, approximately 97% of its sales come from China alone.