The trend towards consumption of ready-to-drink alcoholic beverages is accelerating, particularly among Japanese consumers aged 20-30, with Kirin pointing out that hard seltzer sales are expected to increase to around 11% of the entire Japan. local sales of the RTD category.
This will be very important not just for the company, but for the beverage industry as a whole because of the core values involved – as of 2022, the RTD category sales value was $152 million, and it is expected to reach $395 million by 2027.
“Kirin Brewery has found that RTD consumption is increasing rapidly partly due to the influence of COVID-19, which has led to more opportunities for relaxation and relaxation that are very suitable as RTD consumption opportunities” ,Yoko Shiode, deputy director of corporate communications at Kirin, said FoodNavigator-Asia.
“The widespread enjoyment of soda as a non-alcoholic drink, coupled with increased demand for ‘better for you’ products – hard seltzers [have elements that fit in with both of these]hence its widespread acceptance.
“Additionally, consumers are very accepting of the gender neutrality of hard seltzers, in that the packaging and liquid are not intended for men or women, in addition to the alcohol content, calories and ingredients having less sugar and additives and being easier to understand than other RTD products while being a more affordable alcoholic product than craft beer and wine in general.
“In order to capitalize on this trend and gain more domestic consumers, we saw a very strong opportunity to promote Smirnoff Seltzers outside of Smirnoff Ice products. [that the brand is most well-known for locally].”
The other main attraction of hard seltzers in a market like Japan is its “sleekness” and presentability, which of course includes getting views and likes on social media.
“Hard seltzers tend to be packaged very stylishly here, which makes it easy to spread virally on social media; and these are also considered a category of drinks that can be enjoyed in style and give that ‘cool’ factor”,she added.
Kirin’s first line of hard seltzers was released under the Smirnoff brand in two flavors – Orange and Grapefruit and White Peach.
“These products use Smirnoff vodka, and Smirnoff itself has gained a high level of recognition and respect here for its clean, refreshing taste,”Shiode added.
“In terms of packaging, we decided to do something rare when it comes to Japanese RTD products, which is to use a simple design on a white base and eliminate as much text as possible. [whilst retaining style]. The container capacity is also non-standard here, being an easily drinkable size of 250ml [as opposed to common 330ml cans.”
As for the two flavours chosen, she highlighted that these were picked in order to achieve a high level of familiarity and localisation for Japanese consumers.
“Orange & Grapefruit already has a good overseas reputation, and is a citrus flavour that Japanese consumers are familiar with; whereas White Peach has been developed specifically for the Japanese market as a non-citrus offering and has already received high marks in consumer surveys,” she said.
Kirin-made Smirnoff Seltzers will unfortunately not be launched outside of Japan because the licensing for the Smirnoff brand does not belong to the firm beyond the country. Smirnoff Seltzers as a range though are also available in other markets such as Australia and the United States, licensed under Diageo.
Wanting for whiskey
In addition to hard seltzers, Kirin has also launched a new whiskey product made at its Mt. Fuji Distillery, in hopes of heightening not just local but also international recognition of its whiskies.
“In 2021, the term and standards for ‘Japanese whisky’ were officially defined by the Japanese government, and it has become a whiskey category that is attracting attention both in Japan and overseas,” said Shiode.
“[That said]recognition of Kirin Brewery’s whiskey business is currently still low – so in order to [boost this as well as] to further develop the potential of Japanese whiskey, we hope to revitalize the market through the renewal and launch of whiskey products that take advantage of the characteristics of the Mount Fuji Distillery.
The company launched its Kirin Single Blended Japanese Whiskey Fuji – which will go on sale June 7, 2022 – which it touted as an all-new style of whiskey.
“Kirin Single Blended Japanese Whiskey Fuji is a new product style unique to Mt. Fuji Distillery where the malt and grain are produced and distilled at a single distillery (thus “single blend”), and is rare worldwide‘s whiskies”,she says.
“All original malts and grains are produced in the same natural environment, with the same Fuji subsoil water and the same brewers, then expertly blended to create a [harmony] of a wide variety of flavors.
“We also already have a Kirin Single Grain Fuji Japanese Whiskey which was launched in 2020, and for this, we will start sales in China and Australia in April 2022 to convey the appeal of Japanese whiskey to more overseas consumers – the goal is to increase the overseas sales rate of the Fuji brand to 50% in terms of sales value by 2025.”
Kirin Single Grain Japanese Whiskey Fuji currently already has two other export markets in France and the United States.