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    You are here: Company information - Sapporo Breweries Ltd

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    Company information
    Mineral water, Juices and Soft drinks

    Sapporo Breweries Ltd

    Japan, Tokyo

    06.08.2018   Japan: Beer consumption down but consumers still love beer like beverages    ( )

    Toriaezu, bīru—“Let’s start with a round of beer!” This standard phrase, often spoken before anyone has a look at a restaurant menu, reflects the Japanese people’s love for beer. Whatever the occasion, it starts with a glass of beer, especially in the hot summer months, reported on August 3.

    This does not mean that beer is as popular as it has ever been, though. Regular beer consumption peaked in 1994 at 7,057,000 kilolitres. Consumption fell yearly after that; by 2009 it had reached the same level it had been in 1970. Even so, Japanese still love beer like beverages.

    The first drop in regular beer consumption occurred when the low-malt beer called happōshu, literally “sparkling spirits,” was launched in 1994. The Liquor Tax Act defines beer as having a malt content of 67% or more, so Suntory developed a beer like beverage using less malt, making it subject to a lower liquor tax than beer. With a taste and aroma close to beer, yet at a cheaper price, it was a huge hit with consumers and other brewing companies soon followed suit.

    As a way to prevent products being created with the purposed of reducing tax, the Ministry of Finance reformed the Liquor Tax Act in 1996 so that happōshu with a malt content of more than 50% was the same tax rate as beer. However, brewing companies retaliated by introducing happōshu with a malt content of less than 25% to the market. They also developed new products with extra benefits like reduced calories, expanding this new market.

    In 2003, when the happōshu market had reached its heyday, the Ministry of Finance raised taxes on the low-malt beverage for the second time. This time, Sapporo Breweries reacted by developing a beerlike product that used no malt whatsoever, and a new genre of beer-flavored beverages known as “third beers” was born.

    The “third beers” are placed by the National Tax Agency in two categories—“other brewed liquors,” created by fermenting ingredients like peas and corn, and “liqueur,” where spirits are added to happōshu with a malt content of less than 50%. The tax rate on beer-flavored beverages is even lower than that for happōshu, so a 350 ml can costs around ¥100, about half the price of beer. This highly affordable drink can easily be enjoyed at home, and the market for this type of beverage has grown so much that it has surpassed the happōshu market.

    Looking at trends for alcohol other than beer, the market for refined sake, seishu, has shrunk to a third of what it was in 1970. And although there is said to be a wine boom, the volume of wine sales, including all fruit wines, is only 360,000 kilolitres, not even 5% of all the alcohol category sales. It is clear that Japanese people overwhelmingly love beer like beverages

    Currently, the tax rate for a 350 ml can of a beer like beverage is ¥77 on regular beer, ¥46.99 on low-malt beer, and ¥28 on beer-flavored beverages. In the 2017 tax reform proposal, it was decided that the tax rate on regular beer will be reduced in three phases, so that by 2026 the tax on all beer like beverages will be unified at about ¥54. The definition of beer was amended to having a malt content of 50% or more and now fruit and spices can be used in the ingredients.

    During the past two decades, brewing companies have repeatedly used gaps in the tax rates to develop new products, followed by the Ministry of Finance reforming liquor taxes. If the tax rate can be unified, the brewing companies will likely focus more on developing regular beer—good news for all beer lovers, who prefer the taste of the real thing.
    06.07.2018   Japan: Japan's major brewers split over own-brand beers    ( )

    Major Japanese beer companies are split over how to deal with own-brand products manufactured for such retailers as supermarkets and convenience stores, the Inquirer reported on July 2.

    Own-brand products are products planned by retailers such as supermarkets and convenience stores and sold under their own brand labels. They outsource production to manufacturers. As they can cut such costs as distribution and advertisement expenses, they can sell their own-brand products for less than those of the big brands.

    Kirin Brewery Co. has gone on the offensive by accepting a series of requests for manufacturing such own-brand products — known as “private brands” in Japan — but other beer firms, such as Asahi Breweries Ltd. have adopted a wait-and-see stance.

    As the domestic market for beer and beer-like alcoholic beverages is shrinking, it has become more important for beer firms to cooperate with retailers. However, how to deal with own-brand beers has become a thorny issue for them, as such products are likely to compete with the manufacturers’ branded products.

    In June, major supermarket chain operator Aeon Co. updated three beverages of its own-brand line-up of so-called third-segment quasi-beers, Topvalu Barreal.

    The price for a 350-milliliter can remained the same at ¥84, but Aeon switched manufacturers for its quasi-beer to Kirin from a South Korean maker.

    “I’ve been buying own-brand beers over the past year. If Kirin is producing it, I believe the taste will be good,” said a 42-year-old homemaker from Shinagawa Ward, Tokyo, who picked up a can of Topvalu.

    The newly revised Liquor Tax Law, which came into force in June 2017, is one of the reasons why the own-brand labels have become popular. Shelf prices of alcoholic beverages rose as the revised law reinforced regulations on discounting alcoholic beverages, driving price-sensitive consumers to switch to own-brand products.

    According to Aeon, sales of Barreal increased about 20 percent over the past year.

    Kirin also took on commissioned production of FamilyMart Co. and Lawson Inc.’s own-brand quasi-beers.

    Currently, the market share of own-brand products is still small. However, as own-brand items can expect stable shipments with fewer costs, such as advertising expenses, such products are expected to improve utilization rates of factories.

    Own-brand beers only carry the logos of the retailers. Sapporo Breweries Ltd. also manufactures products for Aeon, but there are no other signs of a shift toward more manufacturing of own-brand products by the majors.

    “What is important is to produce products with added value — cheapness is not the only factor,” Asahi Breweries said.

    “We would like to enrich our brand under the policy of being involved in the entire process, from manufacturing to sales,” said Suntory Beer Ltd., which has also adopted a wait-and-see stance.

    Major firms have been cautious over own-brand products, because of their loyalty to their own product ranges. There is also a deep-rooted concern that low-price own-brand products could have an adverse effect on the major beverage brands.

    Despite such concerns, Kirin started accepting the production of own-brand products. “It could bring favorable effects on the sales of our own products,” a senior official of the company said.

    The market for beer and beer-like alcoholic beverages continues to shrink, with total shipments posting the 13th consecutive year-on-year decrease in 2017.

    By strengthening relations with strong-performing retailers, Kirin hopes their outlets will place Kirin products in prominent parts of the store.

    Observers say that in order to curb the trend of consumers moving away from beer, it is important to attract consumers to the product, irrespective of the brand.

    “How beer companies deal with own-brand products may act as a litmus test for the future power structure in the industry,” an analyst said.
    09.01.2018   Japan: Japan’s beer prices expected to rise this year    ( )

    Higher distribution costs and a labour shortage coupled with rising raw materials are going to push up beer prices in Japan this year, The Drinks Business reported on January 5.

    According to a report by NHK, Japan’s national public broadcasting organisation, four beer makers – Asahi, Kirin, Suntory and Sapporo – will raise beer prices in bottles and kegs this February. Wholesale prices of bottled beer are expected to rise by about 10%, it added.

    It is unclear at present how much prices will go up for beer in kegs.

    Japan is a major beer consumption country, ranked as the 6th biggest in the world in 2016. Last year, the country relaxed its regulation on ingredients allowed in beer production to allow fruits, spices and other ingredients.

    In addition to beer, prices for rice and wheat are set to be hiked up as well, with three major milling companies raising wheat prices by 1 to 4%, starting from this week.

    Consumers will also have to spend more on pre-cooked rice this year. The country’s packaged food company TableMark will raise its prices by as much as 17% in February.
    25.09.2017   EU & Japan: Asahi Group to ramp up sales of its Super Dry beer in Europe    ( )

    Asahi Group Holdings Ltd. will ramp up sales of its top-selling Super Dry beer in Europe with local production aided by faster integration of last year’s $11 billion purchase of brands from Anheuser-Busch InBev NV, Bloomberg reported on September 21.

    Japan’s largest brewer will produce Super Dry in Padua, Italy, starting this month and sell the premium brand in Italy and the U.K. by January, President Akiyoshi Koji said in an interview on September 21. Koji had previously expected sales to begin in 2019.

    Asahi sees overseas sales of Super Dry in Europe and other markets outside of China, Hong Kong and the U.S. almost doubling to 11 million cases within five years on distribution efficiencies. Koji said the brewer is also hoping to use its Super Dry brand to build a stronger presence in the U.S. as it seeks ways of expanding its sales channels there.

    Asahi is reaping benefits after strengthening its foothold in the European beer market with last year’s purchase of brands that catapulted it to be among the four biggest brewers on the continent. The Japanese company has been stepping up expansion overseas as demand at home wanes and local competition with rivals like Kirin Holdings Co. intensifies.

    The Padua factory that is producing Super Dry is part of the European assets acquired last year.

    “I tried the beer there before production began, and the taste was the same as in Japan,” Koji, 65, said at the brewer’s headquarters in Tokyo.

    The company is targeting 35 percent to 36 percent of its total operating profit to come from overseas within five to six years, up from a forecast of 31 percent for 2017. In August, Asahi raised its full-year profit forecast by 15 percent based on contributions from its European acquisitions as well as better-than-expected performance in its soft drinks and food businesses.

    Asahi’s goals for Europe are ambitious and the U.K. presents the biggest opportunity for Super Dry, said Euan McLeish, a Bernstein & Co. analyst in Hong Kong. “Asahi has set some extremely bold growth targets for the European business,” he said. “Producing Super Dry in Italy is a small step in the right direction.”

    Buying into Europe is part of Asahi’s plan to become a global premium beer company alongside Heineken NV and Anheuser-Busch InBev. Asahi in March completed the purchase of the beer business previously owned by SABMiller, including the popular Czech beer Pilsner Urquell. Last year, Asahi closed on a deal to buy Peroni Nastro Azzurro and other beer brands from Anheuser-Busch InBev, which took over SABMiller.

    Koji said Asahi would start selling Pilsner Urquell and Peroni in Japan next year.

    Asahi’s Super Dry, Japan’s first dry draft beer, was unveiled in 1987 and sold 200,000 cases in the first two weeks. In 1997, the brew was introduced in 12 European countries via imports.

    Although Asahi has little presence in the U.S., Koji said he would like to find new outlets to sell Super Dry in the world’s largest economy besides Japanese restaurants, where the beer is most commonly proffered. Koji said he wants to focus on Asahi’s own premium brand rather than craft beer in the U.S. He added he believes there is room in the global market for the taste of Japanese beer.

    “Growing Super Dry has the highest priority in North America for us,” Koji said.

    Meanwhile, its rivals have been busy making deals in craft brews. Sapporo Holdings Ltd. agreed earlier this year to acquire Anchor Brewing Co., a century-old San Francisco brewer that helped pioneer the craft-beer movement. Kirin, Japan’s second-biggest brewer, acquired about 25 percent of closely held Brooklyn Brewery for an undisclosed sum last year.

    Asahi has been shedding some assets to pay for its acquisitions. In June, the Japanese company said it’s selling its remaining stake in a joint venture with Tianjin-based Tingyi Cayman Islands Holding Corp. Asahi also hired Morgan Stanley to advise on the potential sale of its 20 percent holding in Tsingtao Brewery Co. Koji reiterated the company will decide what to do about the stake by the end of this year.
    23.08.2016   USA: Kirin to deepen partnership with AB InBev in hopes to increase US sales    ( )

    Kirin Holdings will deepen an American sales partnership with Anheuser-Busch InBev, tapping into the larger beverage group's distributor network in hopes of gaining more market share for its Kirin Ichiban brew, Nikkei Asian Review reported on August 18.

    Tokyo-based Kirin aims to double its beer sales volume in the U.S. by 2021.

    Kirin works with the world's biggest beer company in Japan and abroad. In Japan, AB InBev licenses Kirin to brew and sell such beers as Budweiser. In the U.S., it produces and sells Ichiban for its Japanese partner.

    With their U.S. licensing agreement up for renewal at year-end, the two companies are planning changes. Employees of Kirin Brewery of America will be transferred to AB InBev under the new arrangement. There, they will form a special marketing team for Ichiban.

    Ichiban will take its place alongside other priority brands in AB InBev's import lineup, such as Stella Artois and Hoegaarden. Until now, the brew with the mythical Chinese beast on its label - sold as Ichiban Shibori in Japan - has gotten lost among the 300-plus beer brands that AB InBev imports into the U.S.

    In return, AB InBev will get a bigger cut than before of earnings on each beer sold. Kirin is willing to take a smaller share in exchange for what it hopes will be greater sales overall.

    The Japanese brewer's annual overseas sales of Kirin brand beers come to the equivalent of 5.34 million cases. (One case equals 20 633ml bottles.) The U.S. is thought to account for 1 million cases of this amount. Kirin's share of the world's second-largest beer market remains small. But the brewer is making an effort there, as well as in such emerging markets as Myanmar, to try to offset the slowing growth in Japan.

    As Americans develop a taste for craft beers and imports - the two now make up more than 10% of the local beer market - such traditional mass-market brews as AB InBev's Budweiser are looking tired. Kirin's U.S. partner sees ample room for growth in sales of Ichiban, given the rising popularity of Japanese food.

    Domestic rival Sapporo Holdings was quick to seize on the American market's potential and now leads in sales among Japanese brewers there, at 2.3 million cases.
    01.08.2016   Japan: Asahi, Kirin to transport beer across Japan jointly next year    ( )

    Brewery news
    Asahi Breweries and Kirin Brewery will join forces next year in transporting beer across Japan by rail, a mode that is less expensive than trucks and more environmentally friendly, Nikkei Asian Review reported on July 27.

    Under an arrangement to be announced on July 28, the rivals will work with Japan Freight Railway and Nippon Express to deliver beer to the Hokuriku region along the Sea of Japan coast.

    Output from Asahi's Suita brewery near Osaka and Kirin's Kobe brewery will go by Nippon Express trucks to a JR Freight depot, and then by train to depots in Hokuriku. Nippon Express trucks will take over from there to deliver the products to wholesalers and other customers.

    Rail shipments from the Osaka-Kobe area to Ishikawa Prefecture will begin in early 2017, with shipments to Toyama Prefecture to start as soon as that autumn.

    The Asahi Group Holdings and Kirin Holdings units have no breweries in Hokuriku. Shipping beer by truck has become expensive owing to the long distances covered and driver shortages.

    Rail transportation is expected to cut the cost of Hokuriku-bound shipments by a few percent. Asahi and Kirin will consider expanding the arrangement to other regions where they lack production facilities.

    Many Japanese businesses in different industries are cooperating on logistics to contend with labor shortages. But this marks the first collaboration between two beer companies on inter-regional transport.

    With younger Japanese less partial to beer and the overall population shrinking, beer shipments in Japan fell for an 11th straight year in 2015. As the market stagnates, reducing costs is becoming an urgent challenge for the industry. Asahi, Kirin and Sapporo Holdings unit Sapporo Breweries last year started sharing logistics sites in Tokyo.

    For road vehicle drivers, the ratio of job offers to seekers has remained above 2 since July of last year. Twenty-five percent of truck drivers were 50 or older in 2001, but this had risen to 42% in 2015, according to the Railway Freight Association. With drivers increasingly old and expensive to hire, many companies are switching to rail even for medium-haul shipments.
    19.07.2016   Japan: Blistering summer heat provides long-awaited boost to beer sales    ( )

    As blistering summer heat has arrived, breweries in Japan are increasing production while daily goods makers are examining output hikes for their antiperspirants, The Japan News reported on July 11.

    At Tokyo-based supermarket chain Summit Inc., sales of beer in the week through July 3 surged by 20 percent from a year earlier, and those of ice cream and other ice products by 50 percent.

    Summit’s flagship store in the Seijo district in Tokyo’s Setagaya Ward has expanded its selling space for beer.

    Moves to increase beer and quasi-beer production are spreading among major Japanese breweries.

    Asahi Breweries Ltd. Mustertextzuaktivieren will boost the production of beer and quasi-beer products by 10 percent from a year before this month.

    Suntory Beer Ltd. plans a 10 percent beer output increase for the two months through August. Production hikes are also planned by Kirin Brewery Co. and Sapporo Breweries Ltd.

    In addition, production will be raised by 40 percent for Asahi Soft Drinks Co.’s Wilkinson carbonated water and by 30 percent for Kirin Beverage Co.’s Nama-cha green tea.

    Last year, temperatures dropped from the middle of August and summer sales lost their vigor.

    “We hope that the heat wave will continue throughout this summer,” a major beer firm official said.
    29.01.2016   Japan: Beer companies shifting focus to regular beer    ( )

    Beer companies in Japan are shifting the focus of their sales efforts from low-malt beer and “third-segment” quasi-beer to regular beer, in expectation of an upcoming tax reduction that would boost demand for regular beer, Toronto Star reported on January 15.

    The number of beer shipments in 2015, announced on January 14 by major beer companies, increased 0.1 per cent from the previous year, the first rise in 19 years.

    However, the total shipment volume of beer and beer-like drinks including low-malt beer fell for the 11th year in a row.

    “We concentrated our resources on Kirin Ichiban Shibori beer, and the efforts have begun to bear fruit,” Kirin Brewery President Takayuki Fuse said at a briefing session on the company’s business plan held on Jan. 8. The volume of beer shipped by the company in 2015 increased from the previous year for the first time in 21 years.

    Kirin Brewery had been strengthening its overseas business on the assumption that the domestic market was contracting. However, the company now attributes declining sales to a lack of focus on the domestic market. Last year, Kirin Brewery regained lost ground by, among other measures, investing about 100 billion yen (about $856,238,000) in advertising and promotions for its beer business.

    Suntory Beer’s The Malt’s regular beer, which the company introduced in September 2015, was a major success, with shipments exceeding forecasts by more than 60 per cent.

    In addition, when Sapporo Breweries improved the flavour and other aspects of its Kuro Raberu (black label) regular beer, its shipment volume increased from the previous year’s figure for the first time in 21 years.

    Since the late 1990s, beer companies have been emphasizing low-malt beer and third-segment beverages, which are cheaper than regular beer due to a lower tax rate on them, to appeal to budget-minded consumers. However, the government and the ruling parties are considering reducing the rate for regular beer and raising that of beer-like beverages to create a unified liquor tax rate.

    The demand for regular beer is thus expected to grow, and beer companies are beginning to see the regular beer market as an expanding avenue for competition.
    21.12.2015   Taiwan & Vietnam: Gold Medal Taiwan Beer reportedly close to signing deal ...    ( )

    ... on opening brewery in Vietnam

    Gold Medal Taiwan Beer, a century-old brand brewed by the state-owned Taiwan Tobacco & Liquor Corp., will open a brewery in Vietnam in the near future, a source familiar with the matter was quoted as saying by China Post on December 14.

    After more than two years of market survey and assessment, the state-owned enterprise has decided to partner with Sapporo Vietnam Co. Ltd., a fully owned subsidiary of Japan's Sapporo International Inc., which will handle production of its beer in Vietnam, the source said.

    The Taiwanese and Japanese companies are expected to sign a contract on December 17 at Taiwan Trade Center's representative office in Ho Chi Minh City, and R.O.C. Representative to Vietnam Huang Chih-peng will also be present, the source said.

    Under the deal, Sapporo Vietnam will be responsible for production of Taiwan Beer in the southern province of Long An near Ho Chi Minh City, while a Vietnamese company will handle the marketing, according to the source.

    Taiwan Beer is expected to hit the Vietnamese market before March 2016, in the first overseas venture by Taiwan Tobacco & Liquor Corp. in alcoholic products.

    The company is also aiming to expand sales to other Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) markets via the deal, the source said.

    With a population of 90 million, Vietnam is one of the world's largest consumers of alcohol. According to statistics, beer sales in the country were around 3.1 billion litres in 2014. Based on the average price of US$1 per litre, the country's beer sales totaled some US$3.1 billion last year.
    06.10.2015   Japan: Tax authorities dismiss Sapporo's claim for return of 11.5 bln yen return in liquor tax    ( )

    Japan’s tax authorities have dismissed an objection filed by Sapporo Breweries Ltd. calling for the return of ¥11.5 billion in liquor tax that the company paid on its Goku Zero beer-like beverage, The Japan Times reported on September 24.

    Sapporo Breweries will decide its response after listening to opinions from outside experts, said officials at Sapporo Holdings Ltd., the parent of the Japanese beer-maker.

    Within about one month, the group will decide whether to bring the dispute to the National Tax Tribunal, which could potentially take months to reach its conclusion.

    Lawyers, certified public accountants and former tax officials serve as judges at the tribunal. Those dissatisfied with the rulings can file lawsuits against the judgments.

    In June 2013, Sapporo Breweries launched Goku Zero as a third-segment beer-like alcoholic product free from purine and sugar. But it stopped production after tax authorities began investigating details of its production method to confirm the tax-related classification of the product in 2014.

    After reviewing the production method, Sapporo Breweries relaunched the Goku Zero as a happoshu quasi-beer with low malt content, to which a higher tax rate than third-tier beverages is applied, and paid liquor tax of ¥11.5 billion as the difference in levies.

    In January this year, however, the firm concluded through an in-house examination that the original Goku Zero was a third-segment beverage. It called for authorities to return the extra liquor tax it paid, filing an objection after authorities refused to do so.
    10.02.2015   Japan: Sapporo Breweries asks for extra tax return for its “Goku Zero” beer-like product    ( )

    Sapporo Breweries Ltd. has asked the National Tax Agency to return ¥11.5 billion of extra liquor tax it paid last year over the categorization of its “Goku Zero” popular beer-like product, Jiji Press reported on January 30.

    The Sapporo Holdings Ltd. unit paid the tax after it was notified by tax authorities that Goku Zero may not fall into the so-called third-segment quasi-beer category, which has a lower liquor tax rate than “happoshu” beer-like products.

    But Sapporo Breweries recently concluded through an in-house re-examination that Goku Zero is a third-segment beverage and filed for the tax return with the authorities on January 26, informed sources said.

    Goku Zero, launched in June 2013 as a third-sector product, became a sales blockbuster due to its lack of sugars and purines, a type of compound that may cause gout.

    Following the tax authorities’ notification, however, Sapporo Breweries stopped production in May last year and paid the extra tax to avoid confusion among retailers and consumers.

    After altering the production method, the company relaunched Goku Zero in July as happoshu.
    27.01.2015   Japan: Craft beer popularity makes major brewers invest in this segment    ( )

    After a short-lived boom in the 1990s, craft beer is catching on once again among thirsty Japanese consumers, The Japan Times reported on January 21.

    Retailer Aeon Co. started stocking up to 90 craft and imported beers at 250 stores nationwide in December last year, and sales have been strong. “More and more people have started enjoying their unique taste,” said an Aeon spokesman.

    Convenience store chain Lawson Inc. last year released a limited run of products jointly developed with Yo-Ho Brewing Co., a leading craft brewer based in Karuizawa, Nagano Prefecture, which is known for its Yona Yona Ale beer.

    “The limited-run beer was more popular than expected and the company was able to reach new customers, including young people and women,” a Lawson spokesman said.

    Over the past year, Lawson has doubled its craft beer portfolio to 11 brands, including domestic and imported products.

    A variety of craft brands were created across the country after restrictions on breweries eased in 1994. The boom was short-lived, however, as many of the products were poor in quality.

    Craft beers have started to regain attention in recent years as brewers using better technology began to lead the market.

    This year, Yo-Ho Brewing will start to outsource part of its output to Kirin Brewery Co., a unit of Kirin Holdings Co., as production is unable to meet increasing demand.

    Major brewers are also looking at craft beer as one of the few promising products amid a slump in the broader Japanese market for beer and beer-like brewed beverages.

    Kirin Brewery plans to set up small breweries for craft beer in two locations, including one in Tokyo. Sales will start in full online and at special shops in the spring.

    Sapporo Breweries Ltd., a unit of Sapporo Holdings Ltd., will establish a new company to begin craft beer production as early as this summer.

    Asahi Breweries Ltd., a unit of Asahi Group Holdings Ltd., plans to sell its limited craft beer series four times a year, starting in February.
    17.12.2013   Japan: Asahi Group to launch a premium version of its Super Dry beer in February    ( )

    Asahi Group Holdings Ltd will launch a premium version of its Super Dry beer in Japan as a pickup in the economy has drinkers indulging more in upmarket brews even while overall beer consumption is at its lowest in more than two decades, Reuters reported on December 12.
    Beer sales have been hit hard by the rise of ready-to-drink cocktails and other alcoholic beverages, as well as an ageing population. Premium beers have defied the trend, however, with rising sales volumes last year that accelerated this year.
    Asahi's Dry Premium will launch in Japan next February at a suggested retail price about 15 percent higher than its flagship Super Dry, Japan's best-selling beer. It will initially be available only in the domestic market.
    "With 'Abenomics' we have some bright signs in the economic outlook and this is spurring growth in the premium beer market," said Tsuyoshi Morita, Asahi's head of marketing.
    Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's policy mix of fiscal and monetary stimulus has helped fuel a rise in share prices and luxury spending over the past year, while encouraging mass retailers to promote high-end consumer goods such as cashmere sweaters and gourmet coffee.
    Rival brewer Suntory Holdings Ltd on December 12 raised its full-year estimate for growth in the premium beer market to 7 percent from a 4 percent projection at the start of the year.
    That is in sharp contrast with Japan's overall beer market, the world's seventh largest, which is expected to shrink for a ninth year in a row to its smallest in at least two decades. Japan's four major breweries are predicting a 1 to 2 percent drop in industry-wide sales this year.
    Figures through the end of November for volume sales by Japan's four big brewers show that the two with premium brands - Suntory Premium Malt's and Sapporo Holdings Ltd's Yebisu - have posted year-on-year increases, while the other two, Asahi and Kirin Holdings Co Ltd, have seen declines.
    02.12.2013   Canada: Sleeman Breweries Ltd. closes its Nova Scotia brewing facility    ( )

    Sleeman Breweries Ltd., the Canadian subsidiary of Japan’s Sapporo Holdings, announced on November 28 that it has decided to close its Dartmouth N.S. brewing facility as of end of business on November 28, affecting 15 employees. The company made every effort to make the purchase of its Dartmouth facility attractive to potential buyers. While the company was optimistic it could sell it to another brewery operator, it has exhausted its options and could not come to terms with prospective bidders.
    "We have been working for months on trying to maintain as many jobs as possible by selling the facility to a new brewery owner," says Pierre Ferland, National Vice President, Operations, Sleeman Breweries Ltd. "We want to thank our employees for their years of service to Sleeman Breweries and the patience and dedication they have shown as we tried to find a buyer. We're disappointed we couldn't find another owner and keep these jobs in Dartmouth."
    Sleeman Breweries made the opportunity to purchase the facility as attractive as possible. Some of the measures the company took included a reduction in the workforce to accommodate a smaller operator, and offering to have over 350,000 cases of Sleeman products produced annually in the facility until the new brewer had their own product established. "This facility was too big for the small operators and too small for the large ones," added Ferland.
    While the Sleeman brewery will be closing, the company's product will continue to be available across the province at Nova Scotia's bars, restaurants and retailers.
    Sleeman Breweries Ltd. is the third largest brewing company nation-wide. In 2006, Sleeman Breweries Limited was acquired by Sapporo Holdings Limited of Japan. The company markets and/or distributes world class imported products such as Guinness, Sol, Dos Equis and Tecate and is supported by 1,000 employees.
    05.08.2013   Japan & South Korea: Japanese beer selling very well in South Korea    ( )

    Japanese beer has been a hot seller in South Korea, where the popularity of sake has also been growing, thanks to a rise in the number of izakaya pubs, prompting Japanese brewers and liquor companies to boost sales campaigns in the country, The Japan News reported on July, 30.
    At Pro Ganjang Gejang, a Seoul restaurant specializing in crabs, Suntory’s high-quality line “The Premium Malt’s” is proving popular. At 9,000 won (about 810 yen), a medium-sized bottle costs twice as much as a large bottle of South Korean beer. Nonetheless, Japanese beer sells very well on hot days, according to the restaurant’s management.
    Some South Korean brands, such as “OB” and “Hite,” are said to be closer to what is called “daisan no biru” (third-category beer) in Japan: beerlike alcoholic drinks that are not necessarily made from malt. Under South Korean law, the amount of malt in beer must constitute at least 10 percent of the content, whereas in Japan the amount must be at least two-thirds, or about 67 percent, which may be one reason why many consumers are opting for Japanese brews.
    Beer imports in South Korea from January to June this year totaled $39.51 million (about 39 billion yen), up 21 percent compared to the same period last year, according to the Korea Customs Service. By country, Japan led the imported beer market, with 33.5 percent, followed by the Netherlands and Germany. Though imported beer accounts for only 3 percent to 5 percent of the South Korean market, its share has been increasing as local tastes diversify.
    Asahi Breweries Ltd., the leading exporter of beer to South Korea, has been pushing sales of its “Super Dry” line to restaurants and bars in the country. Sapporo Breweries Ltd. has been using Hokkaido’s cold weather and natural splendor as part of its image, while Kirin Brewery Co. started selling its “Ichiban Shibori Furozun”--beer with frozen foam--in South Korea from June and promoting the Japanese way of drinking it.
    23.01.2013   Major Capital Program For Coopers    ( Company news )

    Coopers Brewery is undertaking a $20 million capital expansion program in 2013 as a result of continued sales growth and its contract brewing arrangements with international brewers Sapporo and Carlsberg.
    The program includes doubling the size of the brewery’s existing lager cellar, the installation of a second bottling line and two additional fermenters.
    Initial work on the lager cellar expansion will begin shortly, with the second bottling line expected to be installed by November.
    As with the existing bottling line, the new line will have a capacity of 1200 bottles a minute and will be dedicated for Coopers’ traditional products, including Pale Ale, Sparkling Ale, Mild Ale and Stout, which make up more than 70% of production.
    The existing bottling line will then be used for the other beers produced at Coopers, including the lager range incorporating Sapporo and Carlsberg, and other packaging formats.
    Coopers’ Managing Director, Dr Tim Cooper, said local council approval to expand the lager cellar had been received and contractors had been appointed to undertake the work, which involves a small extension to the overall brewery building.
    Dr Cooper said the expansion followed continued growth in beer sales and a strong profit performance in the 2011-12 financial year.
    In the 12 months to June 30, 2012, Coopers’ turnover rose 7.6% to a record $186.3 million, while after tax profit reached a record $27.2 million, up 18% on the $23 million in 2010-2011.
    In calendar year 2012, Coopers sales grew by 9.7% to 68.8 million litres, compared to 62.7 million litres in calendar year 2011.
    This was boosted by record sales in the last six months of 2012.
    “In the six months to December 31, 2012, beer sales jumped by 13.6% on the same period in 2011,” Dr Cooper said. “Our international brands, Sapporo, Carlsberg and Kronenbourg 1664 accounted for nearly half of this increase.
    “Certainly the publicity surrounding our 150th anniversary has also had a major impact on sales. Coopers has achieved positive recognition for becoming the largest Australian-owned brewery, with our sales volume now securely above 4% of the national volume.
    “Colourful new packaging for our traditional ale range, which makes our products more easily recognisable in the market-place, has also assisted with sales.
    “The results for our anniversary year were very gratifying, especially given the current economic situation where national beer sales overall have continued to fall for a third consecutive year.”
    Dr Cooper said the work on fermentation and the lager cellar expansion would cost about $3.5 million and provide Coopers with additional capacity for the growth in lager production. The two additional fermenters are currently being installed, taking the total number of fermenters at the brewery to 24.
    Dr Cooper said negotiations were currently underway with specialist suppliers for the equipment needed for the second bottling line, with contracts expected to be signed early this year.
    He said a second line would reduce down-time and provide Coopers with enough additional capacity to cope with continued growth in the foreseeable future.
    The establishment of the second bottling line is expected to cost around $16.5 million, inclusive of civil works and services.
    (Coopers Brewery Limited)
    07.01.2013   Japan: Japan’s craft brewers reinterpreting American and European beer styles    ( )

    Beer is Japan’s most popular alcoholic beverage, and three brands dominate the market: Asahi, Kirin and Sapporo, all German-inspired lagers introduced in the late 19th century. But smaller producers are generating an interest in ji-biru, or Japanese craft beer, The Washington Post reported on December, 26.

    Japanese brewers are reinterpreting American and European beer styles, adding their own balance and refinement, and sometimes local ingredients, including rice and sweet potatoes.

    A few artisanal breweries paved the way for a more vibrant scene, including the Kiuchi Brewery, whose Hitachino Nest beers have become the best-known ji-biru in the United States. Riffs on American pale ales and Belgian styles have become common.

    Especially widespread are straightforward versions of foreign styles with nuances considered distinctly Japanese.

    “Even though they have IPAs and a huge variety of styles, these beers don’t often have the aggressive flavor profiles that you find in a lot of American craft beers,” said Izakaya Seki’s Cizuka Seki, who offers about a dozen varieties.

    The beers tend to be expensive. For the curious, a good one to try is Hitachino Nest White Ale, a Belgian-style wheat beer with notes of orange, nutmeg and Riesling-like fruitiness. Hitachino Nest Red Rice Ale contains 25 percent rice and is fermented with both sake and ale yeasts, resulting in a hard-to-categorize amber beer that smells like strawberries and tastes like caramel, apples and prunes.
    26.11.2012   Japan: Sapporo Breweries to launch new beer in collaboration with Seven-Eleven Japan Co.    ( )

    Japan’s convenience store chains are increasingly tying up with food and beverage manufacturers to introduce private brand (PB) products amid consumers' craving for low-price goods and the growing presence of convenience stores with a strong selling capacity, The Mainichi Daily News reported on November, 22.

    "We will ultimately aim to have the product overtake Asahi Brewery Ltd.'s Super Dry draft beer in sales volume," Yasushi Kamata, managing executive director of Seven-Eleven Japan Co., said on Nov. 19, referring to the chain's new PB beer, "Seven Premium 100 percent Malt," provided by Sapporo Breweries Ltd.

    Hitting the store shelves on Nov. 27, the beer will be the first product to be provided by Sapporo Breweries specifically to Seven-Eleven. The move has sent shockwaves through the industry as breweries usually take great pride in their own exclusive brands.

    Seven-Eleven leads the pack of major convenience stores in enhancing PB products. Its signature "Seven Premium" products first hit the shelves in August 2007, with seasoning spices and five other items. Today, the number of PB items sold at the chain totals some 800 items and accounts for some 30 percent of all items. The ratio of PB items to overall sales has soared from 1.8 percent in fiscal 2008 to 7.1 percent in fiscal 2011.

    Lawson Inc. also introduced a range of PB items called "Lawson Select" in July 2010 and they now total 300, while FamilyMart Co. started selling "FamilyMart Collection" items at the end of October this year, with a scheduled offer of 500 items by the end of fiscal 2012.

    The range of PB items has also diversified and includes more luxurious products. Seven-Eleven's "Seven Gold" series items, including high-end retort beef curry (348 yen), are each around 200 yen more expensive than conventional PB items, but "have gained support from consumers for their taste comparable to that of specialized restaurants," according to the company's public relations representative. FamilyMart also enjoys increased popularity of its high-end PB ice cream, priced at 250 yen, whose sales have beaten those of a popular name-brand.

    Behind the phenomenon lies the heightened presence of convenience store chains amid dwindling sales at department stores and supermarkets. Gaining demand among women and the elderly, the sales of major convenience store chains last year shot up by 6.1 percent from a year earlier.

    Quite a few manufacturers are also seeking to undertake production of PB items, with one food maker official saying, "Although the markup becomes slimmer, we can operate our factories if we produce PB items." A senior convenience store chain official testifies that manufacturers ranked in third or fourth place in the industry are more aggressive in undertaking PB products than top makers because the former makers have weaker presence at stores on their own.

    "The more PB progresses, the more likely that only the top makers can survive, possibly leading to further industry realignment," said Takeshi Nishida, senior managing consultant at Fujitsu Research Institute, who is versed in PB issues.
    20.08.2012   Japan: July beer shipments decline 9.3%    ( )

    Japan’s beer and quasi-beer shipments in July dropped 9.3 percent from a year before to about 43 million cases, the lowest ever for the month, data from major brewers showed on August, 10.

    The weak shipments came as the rainy season ended later than usual and bad weather continued until mid-July.

    Beer shipments fell 10.1 percent to about 22.66 million cases, while shipments of happoshu low-malt quasi-beer were down 15 percent at about 5.84 million cases, Daily Yomiuri reported.

    Shipments of so-called third-segment beverages, which have little or no malt content, declined 5.5 percent to about 14.47 million cases.

    Each case contains the equivalent of 20 633-milliliter bottles.

    Following the slump in July, typically the busiest month for brewers, Asahi Group Holdings Ltd., Kirin Holdings Co. and Sapporo Holdings Ltd. announced in August downward revisions to their annual sales forecasts.

    But Suntory Holdings Ltd. left its sales target unchanged, thanks to brisk sales of The Premium Malt's beer.
    05.03.2012   South Korea: Imported premium beer sales up 11% in 2011    ( )

    Sales of imported premium beer are on the rise with a growing number of young consumers preferring foreign beers to domestic brands, prompting Korean brewers to pump up imports of Japanese brands, The Korea Herald reported on February, 28.

    About 45 million litres of imported beer was sold in Korea last year, up 11 percent from a year ago.

    Japanese beer was the most popular with 18,252 tons worth $12.35 million sold, followed by Dutch (9,509 tons worth $10.92 million) and American (5,601 tons worth $8.82 million), according to statistics from the Korea Customs Service.

    Imported beer still accounts for only about 4 percent of the annual Korean beer demand which amounts to 3.5 trillion won. The share of imported beer used to be in the 3 percent range two to three years ago, but is now nearing 5 percent.

    According to the nation’s largest supermarket chain E-Mart, sales of imported beer in the first month and half of this year jumped 56.2 percent from a year ago, while sales of most other booze dropped.

    Only sales of imported beer gained in the same period at third largest retail outlet Lotte Mart as well.

    Market watchers said Korean retailers are increasing imports of European beers as the Seoul-Brussels free trade agreement phases out tariffs on European beers within seven years. The FTA took effect on July 1 last year.

    E-Mart, which sells 200 types of imported beer including Tibetan and Brazilian brands, increased the volume of beers in its imported beer corner this year.

    Imports of Japanese beer have soared most.

    Japan’s Asahi has the biggest share ― 30 percent ― of the imported beer market, which excludes foreign beers that are produced in Korea, such as Budweiser and Hoegarden. Asahi beat Heineken, which had kept the No. 1 spot for years, for the first time last year.

    Sales of Asahi surged 20 percent from 2010 to some 12.6 million litres last year, which translates into more than 100 billion won in revenue.

    Lotte began importing Asahi in 2000. Starting with sales in hotels, Japanese restaurants and clubs, Asahi expanded into supermarkets and convenience stores, showing an annual average sales growth of 48 percent between 2005 and 2011.

    “We aim at a 20 percent growth to sales of 1.5 million boxes this year through an aggressive sales promotion policy,” a Lotte Asahi Co. official said.

    The company plans to increase the number of bars that sell Asahi draft beer from last year’s 500 to 4,000 this year.

    As Asahi, which takes up more than 90 percent of the Japanese beer sales in Korea, is produced in China, it tastes fresher than beer imported from further away, according to industry watchers.

    They attribute Asahi’s success also to Koreans’ preference for Japanese companies’ brewing methods and Lotte’s distribution power.

    With the demand for Japanese beer expected to keep growing, other Korean companies have jumped into the import business.

    Oriental Brewery Co. has imported Suntory Premium Malts of Japan’s third largest brewer Suntory since late 2010.

    Hiscot Co., a subsidiary of Hite-Jinro Group, has imported Kirin’s premium bottled beer Ichiban Shibori since 2004, and added canned beer and draft beer to its import list this year. Hite-Jinro is reviewing domestic production of Kirin beers through a technological partnership.

    Maeil Dairies Co. began sales of Sapporo beers last year through a subsidiary named M’s Beverage Co. To reinforce the sales of Sapporo premium beers in Korea, Sapporo International Inc. acquired a 15-percent stake in M’s Beverage last month.

    Maeil is also reportedly seeking to import Yebisu, Sapporo’s premium beer brand.

    Korean breweries are taking steps to expand the sales of imported premium beer in a bid to improve profitability, as it is easier to raise the prices of imported booze compared to domestic beverages, market analysts say.

    The decades-old rivalry between Oriental Brewery and Hite, which acquired soju maker Jinro in 2005, is expected to enter a new stage when Lotte Chilsung Beverage Co. builds a beer factory by 2017.

    The beverage arm of Lotte signed a preliminary agreement with the municipal government of Cheongju, North Chungcheong Province, last month to build a brewery with an annual beer production capacity of 500 million litres in the city’s new industrial park from 2015 to 2017.
    24.01.2011   Japan: Low-malt happoshu beer in disgrace with both consumers and brewers     ( )

    Three of Japan’s major beer breweries plan to greatly reduce their business in happoshu low-malt beers, which have been flogged in the marketplace by less expensive "third-category" beer-like drinks, The Yomiuri Shimbun reported on January, 18.
    Suntory Holdings Ltd. and Sapporo Breweries Ltd. will in principle discontinue developing new happoshu products, only making exceptions for specific regional and seasonal products, sources said.
    Asahi Breweries Ltd. will reduce its happoshu production capacity by about 20 percent and shrink its happoshu sales division.
    Happoshu contains a lower percentage of malt than regular beer, which contributed to their having a lower rate of alcohol tax. The first happoshu product was Suntory's Hops Nama, which was released in 1994. Other breweries followed with similar products.
    With a 350-milliliter can of happoshu costing more than 40 yen less than regular beer, sales increased rapidly and in 2003 accounted for about 40 percent of the market for beer and beer-like drinks.
    However, consumers became less enthusiastic about happoshu as its alcohol tax was increased twice, and after third-category beer - which uses little or no malt and is about 20 yen cheaper than happoshu for a 350-milliliter can - was put on sale.
    Happoshu's market share dropped to 17 percent in 2010.
    The three companies will continue to produce existing happoshu products, according to the sources.
    Meanwhile, Kirin Brewery Co., producer of the still-popular Tanrei happoshu brand, will continue to be active in the business, according to a Kirin spokesman.
    14.12.2010   Japan: Steel Partners further reduces stake in Sapporo Holdings     ( )

    U.S. fund Steel Partners has reduced its stake in Japan’s Sapporo Holdings by more than one-third, according to a public filing, as the investor continues to cut its holding in the brewer as part of a retreat from Japanese equities, Reuters reported on December, 9.
    The fund, which has achieved mixed results with a diverse portfolio of more than 20 Japanese firms, remains the largest stakeholder in Sapporo despite the latest reduction, to 7.88 percent from 13.14 percent.
    It held an 18.64 percent stake in the beer maker earlier this year, but sold a chunk of that in October after criticising the firm's management.
    06.12.2010   Japan & United States: Sapporo looking to acquire a premium beer brand     ( )

    Japan’s beer maker Sapporo Holdings is considering the acquisition of a premium beer brand in the United States as it looks to expand its North American market share and offset declining demand in Japan, Yoshiyuki Mochida, head of Sapporo’s international operations, was quoted as saying by Reuters on November, 29.
    The maker of “Yebisu” and “Sapporo” beer is also aiming for a more than 10 percent market share in Vietnam, where it plans to build a factory and start selling beer in 2012, Yoshiyuki Mochida said.
    Sapporo, the smallest of Japan’s four major breweries, acquired in 2006 Canada’s Sleeman brewery and has been selling Sapporo beer as a premium brand in the United States.
    “It would complete our premium brand portfolio of Sapporo U.S.A.,” Mochida said of a possible U.S. acquisition.
    “In my head, there are a couple of brands, and I have been talking to the heads of these companies.”
    18.08.2010   Japan: Beer shipments up 2.1 % in July thanks to high temperatures across the nation    ( )

    Major Japanese brewers announced on August 11 their domestic shipments of beer and beer-like alcoholic drinks (low-malt "happoshu" beer and low-price "third beer") increased by 2.1 percent in July this year compared to the same month last year up to 47.16 million cases for the second straight monthly rise, due largely to high temperatures across the nation according to the Brewers Association of Japan.
    Asahi Breweries Ltd., Kirin Brewery Co., Suntory Holdings Ltd. and Sapporo Breweries Ltd. all saw their shipments in July increase from year-before levels. One case of beer holds 20 633-milliliter bottles.
    The recent hot spell helped overall demand grow, but the only category to post growth was third beer -- the least expensive type -- reflecting thrifty consumer attitudes. Shipments of third beer expanded 16.9%, while beer and happoshu shipments dropped 0.8% and 11%, respectively.
    18.05.2010   Japan: Kirin targets unusual market sector with its Free beer     ( )

    Kirin Brewery Co., one of Japan’s leading brewers, is targeting an unusual market sector with a campaign giving away cans of its new hit beer - mothers who have just given birth, The Independent reported on May, 14.
    The company is giving away a can of its product, named Free, to around 10,000 women who check out of around 80 maternity clinics in the cities of Tokyo and Osaka.
    The three-week campaign has not set off howls of protest, however, as Free has 0 percent alcohol and the company says it is aiming to win over new mothers who like a drink but would otherwise feel unable to have a beer because of the effect it might have on their newborn child.
    "Until recently there were no beers available that really had zero alcohol in them and new mothers, people who had to drive and people who do sports, for example, felt they were not able to have a drink," Haruka Higashimuki, a spokeswoman for Kirin Brewery, is quoted as saying.
    "Our research showed that they often really did want a drink and to relax or reduce stress, but they couldn't," she said.
    When Free was first released in April last year, demand was initially expected to be modest, with Kirin anticipating annual sales of 630,000 cases of the new beer, each case containing the equivalent of 20 633-mililiter bottles. That estimate was quickly raised to 2.5 million cases and then to 3.5 million cases. The final figure for the year eventually topped the 4 million cases mark.
    The brewer even had to run full-page adverts in national newspapers apologizing to consumers for shortages of the drink due to its popularity.
    As well as being alcohol-free, the beer is also cheaper than regular beer, with a 350-mililiter can of Kirin Free costing about Y150 (€1.14), while a regular beer around Y220 (€1.68) for a can of the same size.
    Kirin's competitors among the "Big Four" brewers here have been quick to follow up with their own products. Asahi Breweries was the first to come up with a rival, unveiling its Point Zero on September 1. Before the month was out, Suntory Holdings had released Fine Zero and Sapporo Breweries started shipping Super Clear.
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