Although Kirin is best-known for its beer products, traditional beer consumption has been seeing a continuous decline in Japan over the past two decades – so although the firm is actively working to revitalise the local beer sector via product innovation, it is also pouring a great deal of resources into growing its other businesses including that of non-alcoholic beer beverages and whiskeys.
Kirin Green’s Free is Kirin’s flagship non-alcoholic beer brand, and according to the firm this has been seeing increased growth in the past few months, which it has attributed to its revamping of the product both in terms of packaging and taste.
“After Kirin Green’s Free was revamped earlier this year, sales in April and May this year were 2.3 times higher than that of 2021, and in general we have seen the number of new converted consumers who had not drank non-alcoholic beers before who tried this increase by about five times compared to before the revamp,” Kirin Corporate Communications Manager Ataka Takashima said.
“Surveys have shown that the new emerald green packaging has been a big attracting factor, with more consumers making the purchase because ‘it looked delicious’.
“In addition, the product is made using Kirin’s patented non-alcoholic beer manufacturing method which is a first in Japan, and uses non-scented wheat and three different types of hops, all of which create that refreshing aftertaste similar to beer.
“We are confident this revamped product will also be able to help us turn new consumers into repeat ones, as since the revamp we have seen the repeat rate of consumers who bought this just on a trial basis increase about 1.5 times compared to before the revamp.”
Kirin has also launched a revamp of its Kirin Whiskey Riku with the aim of boosting its local whiskey sales, primarily making changes to its packaging and whiskey blend.
“What we were going for with the packaging revamp was to give it an ‘easy to pick up while feeling good’ quality, and reports have also shown that this has successfully piqued consumers’ interest in its taste and improved perceptions of its quality,” said Takashima.
“Consumers have also given feedback on the improved taste after we made the revamp to a blend based on a variety of unblended whiskeys from the Fuju Gotemba Distillery, covering areas such as fragrance, richness and general better flavour. [This has also been enhanced by Kirin’s whiskey production process] - Unlike other whiskeys that undergo cold filtration before bottling, we do not do cold filtration and this results in almost no precipitation of flavour components, allowing the original taste of the original whiskey to be preserved.
“The sales numbers support the decision to make this revamp – cumulative sales volumes up to June were about three times higher than in 2021, and overall in the first half this was 216% higher as well.”
Kirin also initiated a unique method of marketing the revamped Riku whiskey, by carrying out a large-scale sampling activity using drinking pouches, a rare occurrence for hard liquors such as whiskey.
“We launched a social media networking promotion offering consumers the chance to try these pouches, and saw about 130,000 consumers apply for this, though in the end we could only select 20,000 for now,” she added.
“That said, we will continue to conduct sampling for up to 500,000 consumers this year, to let even more try this out.”
In addition to the local whiskey market, Kirin has its eye on overseas whiskey market share as well and for this it has been exporting a more premium variant of whiskey, its Kirin Single Grain Japanese Whiskey Fuji.
“Kirin Single Grain Japanese Whiskey Fuji has long been our export of choice to the United States where we are selling this in 14 states. We are also selling this in France, and closer to APAC have also been exporting this product to Australia and China,” Takashima added.
“Since 2021, we have seen a 20-time growth in overseas sales volumes, and we believe that more significant growth is still to come in foreign markets. Our aim is to increase our overseas sales ratio for the Fuji brand to 50% by 2025.”