Breaking the age-old stereotype of hard-drinking college students, Manaka Okamoto ponders the next day’s schedule before cracking the opening. intoxicating beverages,
“If I have to wake up early, and I think ‘Oh, I should stop drinking,’ then I go for a non-alcoholic drink to get the feeling of alcohol when I’m drinking alone, Okamoto, 22, said at a restaurant in Tokyo. “And of course, when hanging out with friends who don’t drink, have something nice to toast.”
The popularity of low- and non-alcoholic beverages has grown around the world, accelerated by the pandemic, which has caused many people to become more health-conscious. According to researcher IWSR, the global market value for the segment increased from $7.8 billion in 2018 to just under $10 billion in 2021.
The effect is particularly pronounced in Japan, where the population is shrinking and young people drink much less than in previous decades. According to government surveys, just 7.8% of Japanese people in their 20s were regular drinkers in 2019, compared to 20.3% in that age group in 1999.
is facing a steady decline in revenue from sale of liquorJapan’s tax office launched a contest in July asking for ideas on how to stimulate demand among young people.
Japan’s major beverage makers are also looking outside the country for growth. The head of domestic beer leader Asahi Group Holdings told Reuters last month that he saw North America as a key market. Suntory Holdings Group is looking to expand its canned cocktail business there.
At home, companies are coming up with innovative ways to improve the bar experience for non-drinkers.
On a recent afternoon in Roppongi’s entertainment district, groups of mostly young women gathered in an alcohol-free “beer garden” set in the shadow of one of Tokyo’s tallest buildings.
Beer gardens are a summer tradition in Japan, but this one – promoted by Suntory and broadcaster TV Asahi – eschews the beer, offering patrons mocktails and a lineup of non-alcoholic wines.
“Consumers are not just enjoying alcoholic beverages. We think they overestimate the communication that comes from drinking or wanting to enjoy the atmosphere of the place where they drink,” said Masako Kora, general manager of Suntory.
Competing Kirin Holdings Company also offers non-alcoholic wines, cocktails and beers. The company said sales of its booze-free beer more than doubled in the three months during June compared to a year earlier.
Sapporo Holdings Ltd said domestic sales of low-alcoholic and non-alcoholic beers rose 20% in the half-year through June, while sales of canned beer declined 4%.
In Shibuya, the newly opened Sumadori Bar – a play on the Japanese words for “smart drinking” – offers elaborate, sweet cocktails that can be made without alcohol or up to 3%. it provides a atmosphere Where everyone can enjoy a drink together, said Mizuho Kajiura, chief executive of the Asahi-led venture.
Kajiura worked in Indonesia for two years and said his experience in a mostly Muslim nation earned him an appreciation for creating a hospitable environment. non drinking,
“The purpose of this bar is to give importance to customers who can’t drink so that they can happily come here with people who drink,” Kajiura said. “If other restaurants and bars can understand our purpose, I think they will get more customers.”