Japanese liquor companies are turning to non-alcoholic beverages to appeal to Gen Z


Contrary to the age-old stereotype of students who drink heavily, Manaka Okamoto considers the next day’s schedule before opening an alcoholic drink. “If I have to get up early and think ‘Oh, I should abstain from drinking’, then I take a soft drink to get a feel for alcohol when I’m drinking alone,” Okamoto, 22, says in a restaurant in Tokyo. “And of course, when hanging out with friends who don’t drink, it’s nice to have something to drink.”

The popularity of low-alcohol and non-alcoholic beverages has increased around the world, accelerated by the pandemic, which has led many people to be more health conscious. The segment’s global market value grew to just under $10 billion in 2021 from $7.8 billion in 2018, according to researcher IWSR. The effect has been particularly pronounced in Japan, where the population is shrinking and young people are drinking much less than in previous decades. According to government surveys, only 7.8% of Japanese people in their twenties drank regularly in 2019, compared to 20.3% of that age group in 1999.

Faced with a steady decline in revenue from the sale of alcohol, Japan’s tax authorities launched a competition in July to seek ideas on how to stimulate demand among young people. Major Japanese beverage makers are also looking to expand outside the country. The head of national beer leader Asahi Group Holdings told Reuters last month he saw North America as a key market. Suntory Holdings Group is looking to expand its canned cocktail business there.

With us, companies come up with new ways to improve the bar experience for non-drinkers. On a recent afternoon in the Roppongi entertainment district, groups of mostly young women gathered at an alcohol-free “beer garden” set in the shadow of one of Tokyo’s tallest buildings.

Beer gardens are a summer tradition in Japan, but this one – promoted by Suntory and broadcaster TV Asahi – skipped the beer, offering customers a range of mocktails and non-alcoholic wine instead. “Consumers don’t just enjoy alcoholic beverages. We believe they enjoy more the communication generated when they drink or they would like to enjoy the atmosphere of the place where they drink,” said the managing director. from Suntory, Masako Koura.

Competitor Kirin Holdings Co also offers non-alcoholic wines, cocktails and beer. The company said sales of its alcohol-free beer more than doubled in the three months to June from a year ago. Sapporo Holdings Ltd said domestic sales of low-alcohol and non-alcoholic beer rose 20% in the six months to June, while canned beer sales fell 4%.

In Shibuya, the all-new Sumadori Bar – a play on the Japanese word for “smart drinking” – offers elaborate and sweet cocktails that can be made without alcohol or up to 3%. It provides an environment where everyone can have a drink together, said Mizuho Kajiura, general manager of the Asahi-led company. Kajiura worked for two years in Indonesia and said her experience in the predominantly Muslim nation gave her an appreciation for creating hospitable environments for non-drinkers.

“The purpose of this bar is to empower customers who can’t drink so they can come here happily with people who drink,” Kajiura said. “If other restaurants and bars could understand our purpose, I think they would have more customers.”

(This story has not been edited by the Devdiscourse team and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)


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