While the planned merger of the world’s two biggest beer makers, Anheuser-Busch InBev NV and SABMiller, has brought renewed attention to global consolidation in the industry, Japan has managed to isolate itself from the wave so far.
To compete with bigger global rivals, however, Japanese beer makers are now looking into overseas investment opportunities and diversifying their products. Here are five numbers to know about the beer industry in Japan.
JAPAN DRINKS A LOT OF BEER
The volume sold by Japan’s five domestic beer makers totaled 2.72 million kiloliters (718.5 million gallons) in 2015, according to the Brewers Association of Japan. Beer consumption in Japan has been declining partly because of an aging population. The volume sold in 2001 was 4.89 million kiloliters.
THE COUNTRY IS IN THE TOP TEN BEER CONSUMERS
Japan was the world’s 7th largest beer consumer in 2014, the latest year for which data is available, according to Kirin. China has been the largest beer-consuming country since 2003. It’s followed by the U.S., where consumption grew 0.5% on-year.
BUT OTHER TYPES OF ALCOHOL CONSUMPTION ARE INCREASING
While beer sales have been declining in Japan, wine and whiskey drinkers have increased by 55.5% and 34.2%, respectively, in the past 10 years, according to Japan’s National Tax Agency. Japanese beer makers have tried to diversify their portfolios in recent years. Suntory acquired U.S. whiskey maker Beam in 2014 for $16 billion, while Asahi bought Tokyo-based wine seller Enoteca Co. Ltd. last year.
FIVE DOMESTIC BEER MAKERS DOMINATE JAPAN’S MARKET
Japan’s five domestic beer makers dominated 92% of the Japanese beer market in 2015, according to Euromonitor International. Asahi Group Holdings Ltd. held 35.5% of the market share, followed by Kirin Holdings Co. Ltd. at 30.3%, Suntory Holdings Ltd. at 15.3%, and Sapporo Holdings Ltd. at 10.2%. Orion Breweries Ltd., based on the southern island of Okinawa, had just 0.8% of the market.
THERE ARE ACTUALLY THREE TYPES OF BEER IN JAPAN
The Japanese beer market has 3 types of beer drinks: regular beer, “happoshu” and “new genre.” Happoshu is low-malt beer with a malt content of less than 67%. It is popular with some people because of its lighter taste and lower calorie count. It’s also cheaper due to the lower malt content. A can of Asahi’s happoshu brand costs about about 140 yen ($1.36) through online shopping, compared with a can of regular Asahi Super Dry for about 200 yen. New genre drinks, also known as “third beer,” are brewed from other crops like peas or corn to avoid Japan’s taxes on malt. A can of new genre is about 120 yen.