Back in December, WineDirect's Vin65 announced its partnership with Gliding Eagle to bring wine from American suppliers to Chinese consumers. The companies have witnessed firsthand the international demand for Napa Valley wine and are working together to help wineries sell products directly to Chinese consumers.
Now, members of Gliding Eagle have revealed more about their vision and process. Jack Duan, founder and CEO, is responsible for the partnership's overall strategy and execution. Duan supervises two teams - one in Napa and one in Beijing. Adam Ivor, co-founder, is responsible for operations and onboarding clients. He also oversees the shipping process and handles warehouses and staffing.
In 2010, Duan approached Ivor, a winemaker with over a decade of experience. Duan wanted to bring Ivor's wine to China, but the vintner had his doubts. Several other companies had already proposed the same idea, but Ivor didn't find their methods of shipping wine sustainable. Yet Duan's business model was different, prioritizing transparency and authenticity. The two came together and created Gliding Eagle a few years later.
Developing a partnership Duan recognized the need to help quality American wineries access the Chinese market in a reliable fashion. Wine producers - including Ivor, before Duan came to him - worried about the details of shipping their product to China, fearing missteps in the process would lead to lost or counterfeit wines. It took Gliding Eagle five years to develop the technology and prove the logistics of shipping wine to China. Ultimately, the company developed a way to ensure both wineries and buyers that the products sold and received are authentic and high-quality.
Gliding Eagle approached WineDirect's Vin65 with its idea - a mobile app that tracks a bottle until it reaches its destination. Leaders of the Napa Valley company were so impressed they proposed a partnership within the half hour, Duan said.
Reaching the Chinese market In the past, getting wine from Napa Valley to China hasn't been easy. Navigating legal intricacies is too burdensome for American producers and limiting for Chinese consumers, Ivor said. Even though Chinese tourism is increasing - Duan mentioned the number of California-bound globetrotters will double by 2018 - visitors can legally only bring two bottles back with them.
The difference in language also makes it difficult for U.S. wineries to sell their product abroad. Marketing directly to international consumers is a new experience, and many are unfamiliar with the intensive paperwork and shipping requirements of exporting wine.
Using data to ensure transparency The companies rely on data to strengthen the connection between wine sellers and consumers, and such information is the foundation of Gliding Eagle's app. QR codes printed on holographic labels - Duan referred to them as authenticity labels - track every step of the shipping process. Gliding Eagle's mobile app and strong partnership with FedEx allows both manufacturers and consumers to monitor the product as it makes its way from America to Hong Kong.
Ivor credits the rise of smartphones with increased access to China. WeChat, the nation's Facebook equivalent, has a QR scanner built into its mobile app. This allows the codes to thrive and provides a way for Gliding Eagle to market directly to customers. Thus, wine producers spread their brand and increase their relationship with Chinese consumers.