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Beer market in Japan - statistic & facts

The beer industry is an integral part of beverage manufacturing in Japan. While the country is well-known for its high-quality, clear liquors such as rice wine (sake) and fruit liqueurs, beer stands at the top of alcoholic beverage production. The success of the brewed beverage is further boosted by the competitive landscape formed by large Japanese breweries. The domestic competition coupled with strict liquor tax laws impede the market entry for outside competitors and small business ventures. At the same time, major breweries are expanding their product lines with low-priced alternatives to their core products. However, changing consumer trends impacted market growth in recent years, as the domestic beer production reached a decade low.

Industry leaders against tax laws

At the end of the 19th century, the domestic beer production started with the founding of the predecessors of the current market leaders Kirin Brewery Company, Sapporo Brewery, Asahi Breweries, and Suntory Beer. While the corporations have since then expanded their business portfolios, the manufacturing of alcoholic beverages remain their core business segments. Especially Asahi Group Holdings, Japan’s largest beer manufacturer, which generates the lion’s share of its revenue within the alcoholic beverages segment through the distribution of beer and beer-like beverages. To circumvent progressive tax hikes and liquor tax reforms, the industry leaders have been continuously expanding their product lines.
According to Japanese liquor tax laws, products classified as ‘beer’ refer to beverages with a malt content of 50 percent or more. Permitted additives during production are limited to rice, corn, sugar, and starches. Consequently, to avoid the higher tax rate on beverages categorized as ‘beer’, Suntory produced the first low-malt beer (happoshu) with a malt content below the threshold of general beers. As lawmakers followed up with tax hikes on beer-like malt beverages, happoshu shipments dropped and ‘new genre beer’ was introduced as a new alternative. Typically referred to as ‘third beer’ (daisan beer), the beverage is produced without malt and is therefore exempted from higher taxes on malt beverages.

 Opportunities of microbreweries

 While beer-like beverages remain the liquor of choice among consumers, inexpensive and commercially available products cater to the demand of the wide mass. Within the straightforward market, microbreweries struggle to assert their positions. However, unlike the downward trend in beer sales at major manufacturers, total sales of craft beers have been showing an upward trend in recent years. The many flavor profiles of craft beers appealing to consumers is contrasted by the consistent taste of products manufactured by large breweries. Furthermore, successful ventures expanded their product lines to the happoshu segment by adding fruits and herbs to the brewing process. This allows them to build up their individualized product lines and signature flavor combinations.
Despite the opportunities for microbrewers to appeal to a wider audience, the distribution of happoshu-style craft beers fell in recent years. To reform the liquor tax system and align the tax rates of beer and beer-like beverages, the Japanese government raised tax rates on happoshu in 2018. This measure effectively hampered the growth of the domestic craft beer market, widening the gap between microbreweries and market leaders once again.

Key figures

The most important key figures provide you with a compact summary of the topic of "Beer industry in Japan" and take you straight to the corresponding statistics.

Microbreweries

Fermented liquor

Distilled liquor

Interesting statistics

In the following 6 chapters, you will quickly find the 28 most important statistics relating to "Beer industry in Japan".

Beer industry in Japan

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Beer market in Japan - statistic & facts

The beer industry is an integral part of beverage manufacturing in Japan. While the country is well-known for its high-quality, clear liquors such as rice wine (sake) and fruit liqueurs, beer stands at the top of alcoholic beverage production. The success of the brewed beverage is further boosted by the competitive landscape formed by large Japanese breweries. The domestic competition coupled with strict liquor tax laws impede the market entry for outside competitors and small business ventures. At the same time, major breweries are expanding their product lines with low-priced alternatives to their core products. However, changing consumer trends impacted market growth in recent years, as the domestic beer production reached a decade low.

Industry leaders against tax laws

At the end of the 19th century, the domestic beer production started with the founding of the predecessors of the current market leaders Kirin Brewery Company, Sapporo Brewery, Asahi Breweries, and Suntory Beer. While the corporations have since then expanded their business portfolios, the manufacturing of alcoholic beverages remain their core business segments. Especially Asahi Group Holdings, Japan’s largest beer manufacturer, which generates the lion’s share of its revenue within the alcoholic beverages segment through the distribution of beer and beer-like beverages. To circumvent progressive tax hikes and liquor tax reforms, the industry leaders have been continuously expanding their product lines.
According to Japanese liquor tax laws, products classified as ‘beer’ refer to beverages with a malt content of 50 percent or more. Permitted additives during production are limited to rice, corn, sugar, and starches. Consequently, to avoid the higher tax rate on beverages categorized as ‘beer’, Suntory produced the first low-malt beer (happoshu) with a malt content below the threshold of general beers. As lawmakers followed up with tax hikes on beer-like malt beverages, happoshu shipments dropped and ‘new genre beer’ was introduced as a new alternative. Typically referred to as ‘third beer’ (daisan beer), the beverage is produced without malt and is therefore exempted from higher taxes on malt beverages.

 Opportunities of microbreweries

 While beer-like beverages remain the liquor of choice among consumers, inexpensive and commercially available products cater to the demand of the wide mass. Within the straightforward market, microbreweries struggle to assert their positions. However, unlike the downward trend in beer sales at major manufacturers, total sales of craft beers have been showing an upward trend in recent years. The many flavor profiles of craft beers appealing to consumers is contrasted by the consistent taste of products manufactured by large breweries. Furthermore, successful ventures expanded their product lines to the happoshu segment by adding fruits and herbs to the brewing process. This allows them to build up their individualized product lines and signature flavor combinations.
Despite the opportunities for microbrewers to appeal to a wider audience, the distribution of happoshu-style craft beers fell in recent years. To reform the liquor tax system and align the tax rates of beer and beer-like beverages, the Japanese government raised tax rates on happoshu in 2018. This measure effectively hampered the growth of the domestic craft beer market, widening the gap between microbreweries and market leaders once again.

Interesting statistics

In the following 6 chapters, you will quickly find the 28 most important statistics relating to "Beer industry in Japan".

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