When we last spoke with Kirin about its whiskey business earlier this year, the firm had highlighted its target of increasing overseas sales for its Fuji branded whiskey to 50% by the year 2025.
However, in light of recent developments, the firm is now confident that it will be able to fast-track the achievement of this target and hit this goal by the end of 2022.
“Exports of the Fuji brand whiskey were up 2.5 times year-on-year in September 2022, and sales volumes grew 20-fold overseas after just one year of being launched [across markets including] Australia, China and the United States,” Kirin Corporate Communications Department spokeswoman Katsura Muraoka told FoodNavigator-Asia.
“[The success of this brand overseas] has given Kirin the confidence to further launch this whiskey brand in Singapore in October 2022 with the introduction of Kirin Single Grain Japanese Whiskey Fuji and Kirin Single Blended Japanese Whisky Fuji.
“We will also the Single Blended variant into the United States and Australian markets [where] exports were previously limited to the Single Grain variant.
“Given all of these developments, Kirin now expects to achieve our 2025 goal of 50% overseas sales for the Fuji brand by the end of 2022 - three years earlier than the original target.”
The Kirin name has long been closely associated with beer, and more recently with wellness products due to its probiotics products under the Immuse brand – but the firm also aims to make a significant name for itself in the whiskey department, citing its specialty in Japanese whiskey as a unique selling factor.
“At Kirin’s Mt. Fuji distillery, we are capable of producing both malt and grain whiskeys, and are able to make four of the world’s five major whiskey types (Scotch whiskey, American whiskey, Canadian whiskey and Japanese whiskey, but not Irish whiskey,” Muraoka added.
“The Fuji brand of whiskeys is actually considered a unique, novel style whiskey product made by the distillery due to its blending of malt and grain whiskies from one single distillery, with the same Fuji subsoil water and brewers, giving it its unique flavour.”
The Japanese government only officially defined the term and standards for a whiskey to be deemed a ‘Japanese whiskey’ in 2021, making the category itself a relatively young one despite Kirin’s Mt Fuji distillery having an almost-50 year history from its start in 1973.
Hit by inflation
Despite its soaring whiskey sales, similar to many other food and beverage firms worldwide Kirin has also fallen victim to inflationary pressures and recently moved to increase product prices for some of its alcoholic beverages.
The main items affected in this round of price hikes were wines, plum wines and shochu (distilled liquor) products under the Mercian brand.
“The cost of raw materials and fuel has soared in recent years, as has the cost of distribution and packaging materials, whilst the environment surrounding wine production continues to be difficult,” Mercian said via a formal statement.
“Mercian has been striving to improve management efficiency and streamline operations [but] we have determined that it will be difficult to absorb the increase in these various costs through our own efforts in the future - so we have no choice but to revise the shipping prices of some of our wine, plum wine, and shochu products.”
The price hikes will be implemented from February 1 2023, and will generally involve a 2% to 12% increase for wines, 8% for umeshu (plum wine), and 1% to 3% increase for shochu. About 480 types of wines, 12 plum wines and 44 types of shochu are expected to be impacted.