Food & Drink

Sake industry seeking to boost flagging consumption

by Shinichi Tokuda

Kyodo

Faced with declining consumption of sake, breweries and retailers are coming up with new events and services and promoting pairings of the drink with new foods to attract fresh customers.

Kurand Sake Market, a bar that opened in Tokyo’s Ikebukuro shopping district in March, enables customers to taste any sake from more than 100 different brands produced across Japan for ¥3,240 per person.

The bar soon became popular and its 40 seats available for reservation are booked through the next month. The remaining 30 seats fill up soon after it opens at 5 p.m.

The menu informs customers what each of the brands, which are lined up on fridge shelves, tastes like and what sort of food goes well with it.

Among the customers on a recent evening were Yuri Suzuki, 22, and Naoka Furukawa, 21, both university students in Tokyo who usually choose to drink beer or cocktails.

“We used to think all sake tasted dry and didn’t drink it much,” Suzuki said. “But we found here that there are some brands that are sweet.”

“We want to try many other brands, too,” she said.

Yasuro Ogiwara, president of Liquor Innovation Co., the wholesaler and retailer that operates the bar, said, “We want to help women and young people get to know more about sake to cheer up breweries across Japan.”

Liquor Innovation opened its second such bar in the Asakusa district in September.

Suggesting that sake can also be served with cheese is Bel Japon K.K., the Japanese unit of major French cheese maker Bel Group.

The company added a kind that goes with Japanese sake to its “Belcube” bite-sized cheese series for a limited period this autumn and the product has racked up solid sales.

Chisa Hamada, a sake sommelier who cooperated in developing the product, said, “I would recommend blue-mold cheese for the clear tasting Honjozo type of sake, and white-mold cheese for the fruity Ginjo type, but you should try any combination.”

At the end of October, Keio Plaza Hotel in Tokyo’s Shinjuku Ward organized an event serving Italian cuisine with sake for female customers.

Toshimaya Corp., an established sake brewery in Tokyo, provided its Juemon brand, which was also offered at Expo Milano 2015 in Italy.

“Sake was truly popular in Milan,” Toshimaya President Toshiyuki Yoshimura said. “Sake should be enjoyed with various cuisines.”

A 27-year-old participant from Shinjuku said: “Italian cuisine’s rich taste matches dry sake. It was an eye-opener for me.”

“The sake was especially good and the taste got milder when it was heated up,” the woman said.

Meanwhile, Morita Co., a time-honored brewery in Nagoya, released a brand in July it developed jointly with Nagoya University’s School of Agricultural Sciences using yeast from cherry blossoms.