Tequila, one of Mexico’s most iconic products, is going through a global image change.
No longer seen in the context of shots accompanied by painful lime-biting, Mexico’s traditional booze is starting to be seen more in the light of a gourmet product that competes alongside the finest spirits like whisky and cognac.
That’s been reflected in the industry’s booming production numbers, which surpassed all previous records in 2019, with more than 330 million liters produced in just 11 months.
Nearly 70% of that total was exported, to more than 120 countries, and while the United States consumes the lion’s share, given its large Mexican-American ethnic communities, other markets are growing.
China in particular is developing a taste for Tequila, and while the market is still relatively small (Mexico exported nearly one million liters to East Asia in 2019), in terms of growth, it’s one of Mexico’s most promising export markets. 2018, for instance, saw 600,000 liters cross the Pacific from Mexico to China.
That’s according to Mexico’s National Tequila Industry Council, whose president Rodolfo Gonzalez spoke to CGTN.
Tequila is an ambassador for Mexico on the international stage,” he said in an interview in the council’s headquarters in Guadalajara, the capital of Mexico’s Tequila producing region.
“China is one of our fastest growing markets in percentage-terms”, he said. “And Tequila’s image has been changing, to the extent that it now focuses on the premium to ultra-premium segments of the market.”
Indeed, the tequila industry has come to represent a model for how Mexico might diversify its export markets away from its dependence on the US. 80% of Mexico’s total exports in 2018 went to its northern neighbor, and with trade uncertainty under the current climate, doing business with more countries may limit the country’s vulnerability to trade shake-ups.
Yet according to Professor Miguel Angel Macias of Mexico’s National Autonomous University, while diversification of markets may be a step in the right direction, there’s more work needed to ensure an economically stable future.
“This demand for Mexican products can open up new export markets, and generate niche customer groups,” he told CGTN.
“But it will never become more significant than the commercial ties with the United States. This process must go alongside the important development of our industrial infrastructure.”
As Mexico’s iconic spirit leads the way in market diversification, it’s setting a standard for other industries to follow, as Mexico seeks a greater role in international trade.