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4-2017

Global hop market

A local alternative to mass beer suggested by independent brewers has been successful and is now altering the global market. Beer is becoming more diversified, so transnational companies have to accept the new game rules and to switch focus to young and fast growing markets. All these processes increased the demand for aroma and bitter hop as well as their acreage expansion on two continents. However now there appeared a downward trend of alcohol consumption in the world, so even special sorts can soon turn to be sufficient. In this connection the dynamic American hop market is already facing some problems. EU hop producers have become more cautious, they are not racing to exceed the demand and look forward with more confidence, judging by the contract terms. 

Hop Market in Russia

Germany still dominates the Russian market, yet over the recent two years one has been able observe a continuous success of Czech hop suppliers. Their expansion and growing popularity of hops from the United States became the drivers of supplies growth in 2016 despite the preceding modest harvest crop in the EU, as well as the factor of relative stability in 2017. In this connection, in 2017, the ratio of the varieties continued to shift towards the aroma ones, and the supplies of Magnum hop and other alpha varieties were reduced. However, the import of bitter hop pellets is partially replaced by extracts, especially from the major beer manufacturers. Total volumes of alpha acid supplies, according to our estimation, decreased by approximately 5% and returned to the level of 2015. Barth Haas Group continues dominating the hop products market; HVG also increased its weight. At the same time, Morris Hanbury significantly reduced the supplies in 2017.

Japanese craft beer is finding a warm welcome away from home

With 99% of the local beer market dominated by five major makers, it's little wonder that Japan's craft brews don't always get the recognition they could at home.

But it's a different story in overseas markets, where Kiuchi Brewery is busy writing its own chapter of growth.

MADE TO SHIP

Sporting an iconic owl mascot and bold, English-heavy labels, Kiuchi Brewery's Hitachino Nest line of beers is often mistaken for imports by Japanese drinkers. And yet it is their "Japanese-ness" that has helped make these beers a hit elsewhere in Asia.

In Singapore and Bangkok, it is not difficult to find restaurants that offer Hitachino Nest on tap, and locals are lapping it up.

"Japanese ingredients like local rice and malt mean the beer goes well with Asian food, unlike the same kind of imported Western beer," said a 29-year-old Thai man who has been a big fan of Hitachino Nest since he first came across it at a restaurant in Bangkok. In his opinion, "Hitachino is a mixture of East and West."

According to the National Tax Agency, Japan had 173 craft beer makers as of March 2014. A survey from corporate credit researcher Tokyo Shoko Research in 2015 showed at least 22 makers export their wares.

Kiuchi has partnered with about 30 foreign distributors, and Hitachino Nest is now sold in more than 30 markets. Its total overseas annual sales volume is 3 million bottles (330ml per bottle), or roughly 1,000kl. That's an impressive figure, considering that 77% of Japanese craft beer makers produce less than 100kl a year, according to the National Tax Agency.

Kiuchi's headquarters is in Naka, Ibaraki Prefecture. Located two hours from central Tokyo, Naka is typical of smaller Japanese cities: It has a population of just 54,000, and there are no tall buildings to interrupt the view of houses, farms and rice fields.

From the outside, Kiuchi's office and factory have the appearance of a traditional wooden building. The people and the facilities inside, however, are anything but old-fashioned. The factory is mostly automated, and the staff, wearing owl-emblazoned jerseys, welcome guests for tours.

Indeed, the company has a history of adapting to change.

24 Mar. 2016

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