The revisions to Japan’s national liquor tax made in 2017 will involve the streamlining of the beer category in the market. The currently distinct beer and beer-based alcoholic drinks tax categories will be unified, becoming the “beer-flavoured effervescent alcoholic beverages” category, in 2026.
The reclassification of beer implemented in April 2018 allows for the increased use of ingredients such as fruits, spices, herbs, honey, salt and others in addition to the currently allowed ingredients, which include malt, grains, starches and specific aromatic agents. This will create opportunities for greater innovation within beer, potentially boosting the development of the craft beer trend.
Rising consumer health-consciousness underpins a growing demand for non alcoholic beer in Japan. Non alcoholic beer continued to register volume growth in 2018, spurred by ongoing manufacturer innovation.
Asahi retained the lead in beer in 2018, though second-placed Kirin gained ground despite seeing falling volumes. Kirin initiated the renewal of its core beer brand, Kirin Ichiban Shibori, in September 2017, which helped to attract new consumers and boost sales in retail channels.
The only major brewers to see volume growth in 2018 were the local representatives of global giants, Anheuser-Busch InBev and Heineken, which benefited from rising demand for Western brands in lager. While Heineken’s eponymous brand is brewed locally, the competitive standing of brands such as Anheuser-Busch InBev’s Corona Extra may be slightly undermined by changes to beer taxation commencing in 2020, as the tax burden as a percentage of the final price is smaller for premium imported beer than for domestic products.
Non alcoholic beer is proving to be a key focus of innovation for major brewers. 2018 saw Suntory introduce a new version of one of its existing non alcoholic beers called, All-Free All-Time.
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This industry report originates from Passport, our Alcoholic Drinks market research database.