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Low-alcohol drinks are on the rise in Japan

Towards an increasingly healthy trend; the giants of national beer and wine are standardized

Leading Japanese spirits manufacturers are introducing a range of low-alcohol products to the market, with the aim of meeting the needs of consumers who fear drinking too much, especially after the government's new call to stay indoors triggered by increase in infections from Covid-19.

Last month, Asahi Breweries Ltd. nationally launched Beery, a line of beer-like beverages with 0.5% alcohol content. The line, which premiered last March in the Tokyo metropolitan area, had recorded strong sales, especially between twenty and thirty year olds. In turn, Sapporo Breweries Ltd. will introduce The Drafty, a beer-inspired, malt-based drink with 0.7% alcohol in 35 cl cans for the domestic market in September, while Mercian Corp will launch in late August “Bon Rouge”, a red wine with an alcohol content of 6% (about half of that of a normal table wine).

According to research firm Intage, domestic sales of low-alcohol beverages in 2020 grew by 70% compared to 2013, reaching a value of 419.1 billion yen. The growing importance given to the "health" factor also supports the spread of these products. In 2013, the World Health Organization cited alcohol consumption as a risk factor for those with cancer or diabetes. Three years later the Japanese government approved a basic plan to promote measures against alcohol-related harm, which urged the alcoholic beverage industry to clearly indicate the alcohol content on bottles and cans.

The answer immediately came from the four national beer giants Asahi, Kirin, Sapporo and Suntory, who have begun to clearly mark on the label the volume of alcohol in grams contained in their main products. "We are facing the challenge of new markets with a variety of products that allow customers to discover new pleasures," said Sapporo. The Japanese alcohol-free or low-strength beer sector is expanding. Asahi launched Beery in stated intent to increase the company's portfolio with beer offerings below 3.5% vol. Its new product "will help form a new category of less than 1% in the domestic beer market".

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EFA News - European Food Agency