Latest Business Report】A comprehensive look at the strengths of each company! These are the products that will win in the expanding “non-alcoholic beverage market! | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Latest Business Report】A comprehensive look at the strengths of each company! These are the products that will win in the expanding “non-alcoholic beverage market!

In this age of "smadori" (fun without getting drunk), it is commonplace to enjoy drinks without getting drunk! Suntory's "All Free" and "Non-Alcoholic Mood," Asahi's "Asahi Zero," Kirin's "Greens Free" and "Ice Zero," Sapporo's "Lemons Free," Coca-Cola's "Yowai Graduates," Takara Shuzo's "Dry Zero Ball," etc.

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Rika Adachi (31) appeared in Suntory’s commercial for the bar, Shuzo Matsuoka (56) in Takara Shuzo’s Dry Zero Ball, Masaki Suda (31) in Asahi’s Dry Zero, and Miho Kanno (46) and Kentaro Sakaguchi (32) in Kirin’s Green’s Free.

It was a world apart.

One day in April, a reporter visiting a park in Tokyo saw people spreading out leisure sheets under cherry trees and enjoying drinking and singing. About 15 men and women, ranging in age from their early twenties to fifties, were enjoying the springtime tradition of hanami (cherry blossom viewing), perhaps as a get-together with new employees. While a red-faced man who appeared to be a manager slurped down a cup of sake, most of the younger employees had Kirin’s “Greens Free ” in their hands.

The “Smadori” drink proposed by Asahi Beer is currently enjoying a bit of a boom in Japan. The scene seemed to symbolize this term, which refers to “a diversity of ways to enjoy drinks in a smart way according to one’s physical condition or occasion, whether one can drink or not.

It was April 2009 when “Kirin Free,” the predecessor of the Green’s Free that the young people were drinking, went on sale. Economic journalist Takai Naoyuki says, “There were three major factors behind the birth of Kirin’s first non-alcoholic beer.

The first was the severe punishment of drunk driving. Second, young people were becoming less and less interested in alcohol. The consumption of alcoholic beverages per adult surveyed by the National Tax Agency peaked in the early 1990s and has been on a downward trend since then, and this trend has only increased in the 21st century. And the third is the growing health consciousness. Around 2007, the phrase ‘100-year life period’ appeared, and in ’08, the so-called metabolic syndrome diagnosis started. Consumers are increasingly avoiding beer, which contains sugar and purine.

Rival major beer makers have not been silent. In September 2009, Suntory launched Fine Zero, Asahi Beer Point Zero, and Sapporo Beer Super Clear. However, these pioneering non-alcoholic products were not a hit. All of them are now discontinued. In 2010, while the situation was still in a stalemate, Suntory produced an extraordinarily big hit. It was ” All Free.

The reason for the success was the power of marketing. Kirin Free contained no alcohol, but it did contain a small amount of calories and sugar. All Free, however, contains no alcohol, no calories, and no sugar. It also contains almost no purine. It appealed to health-conscious people. The company pushed “healthy and good for you” to the forefront of its appeal to consumers. Based on this success, Suntory launched “Karada o Omo Omo All Free” in 1919. This was a revolutionary product that not only contained the three “zeros” but also had the effect of reducing visceral fat, and is still popular today.

Two years after the launch of All Free, Asahi attempted to recreate Japan’s best-selling Super Dry with a non-alcoholic beer called Dry Zero. The company decided to compete on taste. Beer writer Hiroyuki Tomie says, “The problem with non-alcoholic beers is that they are not as tasty as they should be.

The problem with non-alcoholic beers is that they lack a robust flavor. The malt flavor is light. This makes beer lovers think, ‘I don’t want to bother with it.

The cause of the “lack of robustness” lies in the manufacturing process. Basically, non-alcoholic beer is made by mixing unfermented wort with carbonated water, flavoring it with sweeteners and acidifiers, and adding hop bitterness. While each company has been researching this recipe, Asahi has decided to change its mind.

Instead of using wort at all, we added an aromatic ingredient called MBT, which is reminiscent of beer. Wort is the raw material of beer, but it also has a bad taste and smell. If you don’t want alcohol, just add beer flavor without wort.

The New Battleground of Non-alcoholic RTDs

Dry Zero, the winner in terms of taste, has pushed All Free to the top of the industry in sales. But the champion does not stop here. Last year, Asahi Zero caused a stir when it was newly launched.

Asahi Zero is the first beer in Japan to use the “de-alcoholization process,” which removes only the alcohol content after the beer has been made. The bottleneck is that once the alcohol is generated, the Liquor Tax Law applies. The price is a little expensive, about 180 yen at a convenience store (ordinary non-alcoholic beer is around 130 yen). Still, because it goes through the brewing process, it has a strong malt flavor and aroma” (Tomie, above).

Asahi is currently dominating the non-alcoholic beer market with products that do not contain alcohol but have a flavor similar to that of beer.

However, beer is not the only battleground in the non-alcoholic beverage industry. The RTD (ready-to-drink) market, including canned chuhai and highballs, is also being hotly contested. The leading player is Suntory, which has fallen behind Asahi in the non-alcoholic beer market. Uncle Strong,” a canned chu-hi expert who drinks more than 1,000 cans of chu-hi a year, says, “The Corona disaster has made it possible to drink chu-hi during home hours.

With the COVID-19 crisis, people were spending more time at home, and demand for non-alcoholic RTDs that could be picked up at any time of the day or night was growing. In March 2009, Suntory launched “Non-alcoholic Evening Drinks,” which was a huge hit. It sold 2 million cases by the end of the year.’ The industry’s total sales in 2009 were 6.72 million cases, so this is a tremendous number.
What was the secret behind the success? It is “differentiation from juice. Many other RTD beverages are sweet, and the question “What is the difference between a non-alcoholic lemon sour and lemon squash? The question “What is the difference between non-alcoholic lemon sour and lemon squash? In response, Suntory adopted for the first time in its products a manufacturing process that condenses the flavor derived from shochu into a non-alcoholic extract. We developed a non-alcoholic RTD with a moderate sweetness and an alcoholic flavor.

Suntory took the lead in the non-alcoholic RTD market with the release of “Non-alcoholic Wine Holiday” the following year in 2010.

While Suntory overcame the issue of “difference from juice” with its know-how in alcoholic beverages, Coca-Cola Japan used its own know-how to introduce “Yowairei Graduates.

Coke was originally a medicinal drink made by adding spices to wine. So we are confident in our flavor combinations. The answer to Coca-Cola’s ‘difference from juice’ was juniper berries. This is a well-known spice used to flavor gin, with a subtle sweetness and a refreshing aroma. By adding this extract and salt, we were able to recreate a depth of flavor that is present in lemon sours but not in lemon squash,” says beverage expert Takahiro Ezawa.

In October 2010, Takara Shuzo launched “Dry Zero Ball” using its shochu as a weapon of confidence.

Takara Shuzo’s shochu brewery has 85 varieties of aged shochu in 20,000 barrels, and we have developed ‘Takara Shochu High Ball Extract’ by condensing all the deliciousness of these shochu. Because we are confident of its taste, it contains no sugar and no calories, unlike “Nonaru Evening Brew” and “Yonai Graduates. It will become an even more popular product.

The development competition in the non-alcoholic beverage industry, in which major companies are engaged in a fierce battle with products that they have created with all their energies, will likely never end.

Asahi Zero has become popular for its revolutionary production method and taste. Ryuichi Kosugi (right, 50) and Maki Fukuda (center, 35) were on stage at the presentation.
Nonaru Mood, Wine Holiday, and Yowai Graduates have a sweet taste. Targeting young people who usually prefer low-intensity, sweet sake such as “Horoiyoi,” they will encourage the “de-alcoholization” trend.

From the May 10 and 17, 2024 issue of “FRIDAY

  • PHOTO AFLO (Sugata) Kyodo News (Matsuoka) Jiji Press (Adachi)

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