Japan’s big four beer companies to share transport amidst shortage of manpower

By Tingmin Koe

- Last updated on GMT

According to Euromonitor, beer in Japan recorded a total volume sales decline of 2% in 2016.
According to Euromonitor, beer in Japan recorded a total volume sales decline of 2% in 2016.
Asahi, Kirin, Sapporo and Suntory will deliver products across Japan via the same long-distance trucks and trains, in a rare display of co-operation among the nation’s big four beer brands.

According to Suntory, the move will address “the shortage of drivers”,​ while reducing CO2​ emission at the same time.

The firm estimated that all four companies can secure a long-distance transport capacity equivalent to 2,400 heavy-duty trucks by rail container, reducing annual CO2​ emissions by about 1,500t, which is 74% of conventional transport models.

The initiative has been up and running for the past two weeks.

Cooperation reduces costs

In Japan, rising cost incurred by long distance shipping and a lack of manpower have forced competitors in the same industry to share transport resources.

For instance, Asahi and Kirin, the two largest companies by market share, have begun to transport products together by rail across Japan last year.

Through this partnership, CO2​ emissions are expected to be reduced by 2,700 tonnes annually through the modal switch to rail containers from an annual equivalent of 10,000 long-distance delivery trucks. 

In order to facilitate transport, the two companies have even established a joint logistics centre in Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture.

The success of the joint modal switch has sowed seeds for further cooperation, where both companies went on to invite Suntory and Sapporo to share transport resources.

This collaborative approach is set against a tough backdrop for Japan’s beer firms.

According to Euromonitor, beer in Japan recorded a total volume sales decline of 2% in 2016.

Alcoholic beverage growth

In addition to demographic changes such as the ageing population and falling birth rate, other alcoholic drinks categories which compete with beer continue to register growth, including ready-to-drink mixes, cider/perry and whiskies.

“Many consumers are transitioning to other alcoholic drinks options which offer different flavours and this includes products with low ABV and high ABV, as well as healthier options,”​ added Euromonitor.

“Although there are set to be some positive factors supporting growth in the category such as the increasing popularity of craft beer, the declines expected in the numbers of beer consumers is inevitable.”

With Japan’s beer market set to decline 1% by the year 2022, this latest move suggests that the country’s biggest beer competitors may now be deciding that collaboration to cut costs and defend the overall category is a smart approach.


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