Major beverage manufacturers such as Asahi Group Holdings, Kirin Holdings Company, Suntory Holdings Limited or Sapporo Holdings Limited dominate the domestic industry, accounting for over 90 percent of the market share in 2017.
On the consumer side, over 40 percent of Japanese adults in 2017 said they drank beer on a regular basis. While the Japanese alcoholic beverage industry is well known for its production of high alcohol content liquor like shochu and sake, the majority of Japanese adults enjoy domestically produced beer, contributing to the success of large breweries.
However, following the relaxation of regulations in 1994, allowing microbreweries to enter the market, craft beer is continuously gaining popularity in Japan, providing consumers with a large variety of new flavor profiles.
The Japanese beer market encompass a large range of regular beer and beer-like beverages, with lager beer dominating the market. As a response to increasing liquor taxes on beverages classified as beer with a malt content of at least 67%, low-malt (Happo-shu) and no-malt (New Genre) alternatives made from soy beans or wheat spirits were introduced by market leaders, taking advantage of lower tax categories.
In 2017, the Japanese government announced the gradual revision of taxation regulations on liquors until 2026. Beer and beer-like beverages will be unified in a single tax category, consequently raising the taxes on Happo-shu with less than 25% malt content and malt-less alternatives, while relieving the tax burden on high-malt products.
Forecasts suggest a decrease in alcohol consumption in Japan to about 8.75 billion liters by 2020, implying that the domestic alcoholic beverages market will continue to shrink in the future.