Business / Corporate

Japanese beer makers upbeat on 2020 sales even as market shrinks

JIJI

Three major Japanese beer makers remain bullish on domestic sales for 2020 despite a shrinking market amid a decline in young people’s interest in beer products.

Japan’s market for beer and quasi-beer products is expected to have shrunk in 2019, which would be the 15th straight year of decline. The falling sales are also being blamed on fierce competition with other alcoholic drinks, such as low-priced chuhai spirit-based products.

Meanwhile, sales of so-called third-segment beer-like beverages have been robust as consumers become more budget-minded.

Kirin Brewery Co. aims to sell 136.7 million cases this year across all three categories, up 0.9 percent from the previous year, investing heavily on its Ichiban Shibori brand beer and Honkirin, a third-segment product. Each case contains the equivalent of 20 633-milliliter bottles.

Suntory Beer Ltd. plans to renew its mainstay Kinmugi third-segment series this month. Sapporo Breweries Ltd. and industry leader Asahi Breweries Ltd. will launch new third-segment products in February and March, respectively. Suntory plans to increase its beer and quasi-beer sales in 2020 by 1.0 percent to 64 million cases. Sapporo plans to sell 44.5 million cases, up 2.4 percent. Meanwhile, Asahi expects its beer and quasi-beer shipments to reach ¥666 billion this year, unchanged from 2019.

The liquor tax on beer and quasi-beer, which currently ranges from ¥28 to ¥77 for a 350-milliliter product, is scheduled to be unified in stages by 2026, with that process starting in October this year.

Against that backdrop, Asahi plans to focus more of its management resources on its flagship Super Dry beer. The tax rate on beer products is set to be reduced in the unification process.