Sake makers focus on U.S. as sales go dry in Japan

JIJI

Sake breweries are increasing marketing efforts abroad amid steadily dwindling sales at home, aiming to attract more consumers in the United States by riding on the popularity of Japanese cuisine and health awareness.

Sake sommelier Chizuko Niikawa held a recent tasting in New York where she explained about the traditional drink.

At the request of sake makers focusing on the market, Niikawa is launching a sales campaign across the United States.

“I want sake to penetrate the U.S. market as a culture of the world,” she said.

“Americans have started to get used to sake and to enjoy it,” said Kosuke Kuji, an executive of Nanbu Bijin, a brewer in Iwate Prefecture.

According to the Japan Sake and Shochu Makers Association, sake exports totaled 14,014 kiloliters in 2011, about double what it was 10 years ago, with 4,071 kl was shipped to the U.S., Japan’s largest export destination.

Restaurants serving Japanese cuisine in the U.S. surged to 14,000 in 2010 from 6,000 in 2000, nearly paralleling the rise in sake sales, the Japan External Trade Organization says.

A large business event for sake is set to be held in New York in February.