Industry insiders told this publication that the alcohol-free beer category is growing due to a strong focus on avoiding drink driving, citing the fact that there is zero tolerance for drink driving in Japan.
Health conscious consumers are opting for the low-calorie and low-malt beers, rather than alcohol-free, added the beverage market specialist.
A senior consultant from a Japanese research firm, who wished to remain anonymous, also noted the fact that a large consumer group buying into the alcohol-free sector is the young female category.
Success at local level
Japanese companies such as Kirin, Asahi and Sapporo all have alcohol-free beers on the market and have all noted growth in this area.
Suntory Liquors released a non-alcoholic drink in October and has had to raise its sales targets by 70% after the product, Nonaru Kibun, took off, according to the company.
November this year saw Japanese wine maker Mercian Corp launch its first non-alcoholic wine.
Against a shrinking alcohol market
The report, Alcoholic drinks in Japan, said that the market is sluggish and that in such a flailing market companies need strategy to succeed.
It noted opportunities in healthier beverages as products with health-appeal had performed well in the market.
It also said that manufacturers need to be targeting the younger consumer, as they are the key to the future success of the industry; “the largest challenge that the alcoholic drinks players in Japan face is how to cultivate new drinkers, especially the younger group, to support the future market.”
Local focus on alcohol-free beverages is driving profits, and in Japan it is these products that are driving growth for alcoholic beverage companies.