From ‘Beery’ to ‘Drafty’, Low Alcohol Drinks on the Rise in Japan

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Alcoholic beverage makers in Japan, seeing yen signs to quench thirst for response, are serving an increased variety of low-alcohol drinks that cater to those people, who are not satisfied with non-alcoholic drinks alone.

A number of companies unveil new drinks to meet growing demand from a growing wave of health-conscious consumers and customers drink more at home due to the pandemic.

Asahi Breweries Ltd. will launch Asahi Hibally on September 28. Blended with malt whiskey brewed by its subsidiary Nikka Whiskey Distilling Co., the low-alcohol highball has an authentic aroma and flavor, the company said.

The 0.5 percent alcohol version of a highball is available in 350 milliliter cans and sells for 195 yen ($ 1.80) including tax, while the 3 percent alcohol version is priced at 199 yen.

The company’s beer, a beer-like drink with an alcohol content of 0.5%, targets first-time drinkers and consumers in their 20s and 30s who would be afraid of regular beer. It has seen high sales since its nationwide release in June.

With many restaurants adding the drink to their menus, Asahi has also been supplying beer in small bottles to restaurant owners since September.

On September 14, Sapporo Breweries Ltd. launched Drafty, a beer-like drink with an alcohol content of 0.7 percent.

Made with draft beer brewed from 100% malt, it’s designed to produce a flavorful malt flavor, the company said.

On August 31, Suntory Spirits Ltd. has stepped up its 3% Horoyoi canned “chuhai” drink series, which it first introduced in 2009, adding Acerola Sour to the 15 varieties it sells each year.

“It has become important to enrich our varieties when people have more and more opportunities to drink at home,” said one Spirits of the Sun said the rep.

The Japanese low-alcohol and non-alcoholic beverage market is big business. Drinks with an alcohol content of 3% or less grossed 105.8 billion yen in 2020, according to a survey by marketing firm Intage Inc., up 5.9% in one year.

This year, the market is also expected to develop.

Asahi, in light of this trend, plans to increase its sales ratio of products with an alcohol content of 3.5 percent or less to all alcohol-related beverages for home consumption by about 6 percent. percent in 2019 to 20 percent in 2025.

“We can develop attractive drinks even if they are low in alcohol,” said Kazuo Matsuyama, who heads Asahi’s marketing division.

Drinks with an alcohol content of less than 1% are more profitable for beverage manufacturers because they are not classified as alcohol under the Liquor Tax Act and are exempt from the liquor tax even though they are sold at the same price as alcoholic drinks.

But beverage makers are still required to prevent minors from drinking them because they contain a small amount of alcohol.

To ensure that these drinks are not readily available to minors, Beverage retailers and manufacturers post signs in alcohol sales sections prohibiting minors from purchasing them and display alcohol content on cans and bottles of items in large print, according to an Asahi representative.

The trend of low alcohol content has also spread to the Japanese wine industry.

Mercian Corp. launched on August 31 a wine called Bon Rouge which has an alcohol content of 6 percent.

Although a typical wine has an alcohol content of around 12 percent, Mercian has created low-alcohol alcohol to target drinkers who want to enjoy wine without getting drunk.

Wine is designed for yousing a technology to extract the polyphenol to deliver a rich flavor even though it is low in alcohol, the company said.

(This article was written by Takumi Wakai and Kazumi Tako.)


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