Kyoto Shimbun 2013.7.18 News

Refined Sake Market Fizzes Up
Expanding Sales Outlets for Sparkling Sake

The market for "Sparkling Japanese Sake," which is also called "Sparkling refined sake," has gathered momentum in Japan and overseas. As its alcohol percentage is lower than general refined sake and it is easy to drink with a suave taste like champagne, it seems to have gained popularity mainly among women and young people. Each brewing company in Kyoto aims to raise the consumption level of all refined sake by introducing new products and expanding the market.

Takara Shuzo Co. Ltd. in Shimogyo Ward, Kyoto, is planning to expand the distribution route for "Mio," which was released in 2011, from September. As its brisk sparkle and faint sweetness is popular with people in their 20s and 30s, who used to be unfamiliar with refined sake, they plan to expand the sales route, which has been limited in restaurants and department stores until now, into supermarkets and convenience stores. The company will increase the 200,000 cases for the domestic market in the fiscal year 2013 to about five times that within two or three years. One case is equivalent to twelve 300 milliliter bottles.

Sales in the United States have been going well, and they are also strengthening exports to Europe and Asia. A spokesman said, "We want to provide more people with their first introduction to Japanese sake, which will lead to acquiring new customers."

Gekkeikan Sake Co., Ltd. in Fushimi Ward, Kyoto, introduced "Zipang," which is blended with fermented natural carbonate, in 2000. The company shifted its market cultivation to the United States in 2005 and the overseas sales ratio amounts to about 80 % of the total. The shipping volume has grown to three times the initial amount.

Meanwhile, the move to expand products stands out. Kizakura Co., Ltd., also in Fushimi Ward, Kyoto, launched a carbonated, unfiltered sake named "Shiroi Sparkling" in February. With more products like "Sake High-Ball," or sake mixed with soda water, and the sparkling pure sake "Hoshi no Nagare," the company said, "Even women, who have difficulty approaching Japanese sake straight away, can enjoy these kinds of products as the first step toward traditional Japanese sake."

The largest brewery company in Japan, Hakutsuru Sake Brewing Co., Ltd. in Kobe City, Hyogo Prefecture, released "Hakutsuru Sparkling" in March. The company said, "We have more plans for the future to continue our expansion of the product lineup in order to spread new ways to drink Japanese sake."

Even retail stores have a good selection of products. JR Kyoto Isetan, in Shimogyo Ward, Kyoto, sells a total of approximately 10 types of sake, including not only major brewers, but also "Masuda Tokubee Shoten Co., Ltd." in Fushimi Ward, and "Tanzan Shuzo Ltd." in Kameoka City, Kyoto Prefecture.

Furthermore, the nation's first "Seishu de Kanpai Jorei," or toast with a cup of pure sake act, was undertaken in January in Kyoto, providing a positive boost to each company. Takara Shuzo Co., Ltd. said expectantly, "We hope that people will also have a greater opportunity to drink sake as a toast before the meal."

(translated by Galileo, Inc.)

Photo= Various bottles of sparkling refined sake, including sake produced by Kyoto brewery companies, on display (JR Kyoto Isetan, Shimogyo Ward, Kyoto)