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Three major beverage companies plan to raise the prices of their wines and low-malt beer known as “happoshu” to offset increased costs from planned increases in the liquor tax, officials of the firms have said.

Sapporo Breweries Ltd., Suntory Ltd. and Mercian Corp. began briefing wholesalers on their plans, due to the likelihood of a bundle of tax-related bills clearing the Diet, paving the way for the government to impose higher liquor taxes on happoshu and wine starting May 1.

The officials said Tuesday that Sapporo and Suntory plan to add 10 yen to the suggested retail price of a 350-ml can of happoshu and 16 yen to a 500-ml can, the same hikes as envisioned by rival beer brewers Kirin Brewery Co. and Asahi Breweries Ltd.

The three companies plan to add 10 yen to the suggested retail price of their 720-ml bottles of wine, the officials said.

A Sapporo official, defending the 10 yen price raise, said, “It is hard to absorb the greater costs stemming from the tax increase on the basis of our efforts to cut expenses.

“It would be easier to gain consumers’ understanding and pass on an even 10 yen to product prices, because we would have to round off those higher prices with decimal places stemming from the tax rise to the nearest whole number,” the official said.

Mercian, the nation’s largest wine maker, and Suntory plan to transfer a 10 yen portion of the costs due to the planned tax increases to the suggested retail price of their 720-ml and 750-ml bottles of wine.

Although the tax increases for wine will be 10.05 yen for a 720-ml bottle and 10.48 yen for a 750-ml bottle, the firms will limit the actual rises to 10 yen by rounding off the figures.

Mercian said it expects an annual loss of 30 million yen to result from rounding off the fractions.

“There is no alternative but to absorb the greater tax-related costs by cutting back on our corporate expenses,” a Mercian spokesman said.

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