Single-serve sake expands minis market in US, Australia

By Beth Newhart contact

- Last updated on GMT

The small cups can take sake out of its niche and appeal to consumers that are looking for a drink that is versatile and mixes well in cocktails, Hiro said.
The small cups can take sake out of its niche and appeal to consumers that are looking for a drink that is versatile and mixes well in cocktails, Hiro said.

Related tags: sake, Alcohol, Alcoholic beverage

Sake originated in Japan and is made alcoholic from fermented rice. Hiro Sake wants to make the trend portable and accessible with smaller, on-the-go portions.

Sake is growing in popularity in the US market, now available in new single-serve sizes. Hiro Sake is in the process of expanding its US footprint with its first 6oz glass cup.

The brand also sells Red, Blue and Gold Sake in 24oz bottles reminiscent of wine. Hiro Sake first launched in 2013, and has been growing in North America with its full size varieties since.

Make sake simple

Marco Destefanis and his co-founders saw the sake category growing in the US, without much change in the branding, availability and distribution. They realized they wouldn’t need to cross many barriers to enter the market, and envisioned a better and more accessible product.

Destefanis told BeverageDaily that the mission of Hiro Sake is ‘make sake simple.’ Many US consumers find traditional Japanese brands confusing, and are unable to read the labels and distinguish between products. The Hiro team wanted to simplify that with an easy name written in English.

Hiro Sake products are not intended for the Japanese consumer, who are already well integrated with other brands. Hiro targets the American general public, and those with a focus on health and wellness, according to Destefanis.

Sake can be considered a healthier option to several spirits, as it is naturally gluten free, preservative free, and sugar free. It has half the calories of vodka, and a lower ABV content at 15%.

Carlos Arana, co-founder and CEO of Hiro Sake, said "We developed Hiro Sake in 2011 and have seen the US market grow, develop and mature in the last few years. We concepted the Hiro Sake single serve cup as a way to take sake out of its niche and make it a go-to for consumers that are looking for a drink that is versatile, mixes well in cocktails, is low alcohol and gluten-free – and will allow them to take their sake on the go.”

“It is the evolution of a market that supports single serve wine, champagne, prosecco and ready-to-drink alcoholic beverages and we think that cup sake is the next single serve trend."

Next step, downsizing

Sake has caught on especially well in certain US states because it is taxed and classified like a wine. This means it can be purchased and sold at venues that only have a wine and beer license. A full legal license for spirits is much more expensive and harder to obtain in states like California, New York, Florida and Texas.

This gives back the option of cocktails without spirits, because sake can easily be used as a substitute for many cocktails. Destefanis said that most consumers are open to the swaps, as they tend to choose cocktails based on color, name, smell and taste.

The single serves were a natural progression as the Hiro team noticed the appeal and popularity of portability in alcohol. The prominent millennial and Gen Z consumers respond well to affordable convenience.

Rather than committing to a full bottle, “it’s a little cup of something,” ​Destefanis said. “It’s not the sake necessarily that consumers are looking for, it’s the convenience.”

Distribution of the cups started in Florida at the end of 2019, and will expand across the US and into Australia this year. Hiro’s larger sake bottles are also in Mexico, Canada and Australia, with plans to enter Europe and Russia soon.

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