Japan: Major brewers to strengthen lineup of products for home drinking

Japan’s four major beer brewers plan to strengthen their lineup of products aimed at demand for home drinking, which has been increasing amid the coronavirus crisis. They aim to increase their market share by launching new products with cheaper third-segment beer-like beverages and rejuvenating their main brands, The Japan News reported on January 19.

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Source:  E-Malt News

Competition among beermakers is expected to intensify as the government has reissued its declaration of a state of emergency and consumers again refrain from going out.

Asahi Breweries Ltd. plans to launch a new low-alcohol product, Beery, in March in Tokyo and nine other prefectures. Beery contains only 0.5% alcohol, and will be available nationwide in June. The company will also release a new product called Nama Jokki (mug) Kan from its Super Dry brand in April. The lid on the top of the can pops fully open, producing foam similar to that of a draft beer served at pubs and restaurants.

Asahi Breweries’ sales in 2020 fell 16% from the previous year, losing its leading market share to Kirin Brewery Co. for the first time in 11 years. The fall in sales was due to a slump in sales of Super Dry beer, which has a large share of sales to restaurants.

“The demand [created] from hanami partying and festivals has evaporated,” said Kenichi Shiozawa, president of Asahi Breweries.

“The business model that relies almost only on Super Dry has backfired,” a person interested said. With a sense of crisis, the company is committed to the development of new products.

Kirin will revamp Honkirin, its best-selling third-segment beer-like beverage, this month, and Kirin Ichiban Shibori, its mainstay beer, in February, with an emphasis on taste and texture.

“We would like to respond to economy-conscious [consumers] and fastidious consumption,” Kirin President Takayuki Fuse said.

Sapporo Breweries Ltd. plans to gradually rejuvenate its Yebisu Beer, a long-established brand, starting with shipments being produced this month.

Suntory Beer Ltd. will launch Kin-Mugi The Lager as a new product of its third-segment beer-like beverage brand Kin-Mugi in February, and will carry out a campaign in cooperation with Ajinomoto’s frozen foods.

In last October’s revision of liquor tax rates, there was a tax cut for beer and a tax hike for third-segment beer-like beverages. While the price gap between beer and beer-like beverages has narrowed, the latter remain less expensive, and so it remains popular.

Among all beer-type beverages, the market share for third-segment beverages was 46% last year, exceeding beer, at 41%, for the first time.

This is one of the reasons Kirin could take the top share. The company’s sales of beer and beer-like beverages fell only 4% last year due to brisk sales of Honkirin. The product mix affects each company’s share and performance. For the time being, beermakers are expected to continue selling products that hone in on the demand for home drinking.

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