Japan Focus: Suntory’s price hikes, Kirin’s beer and sugar-free product innovation plans, post-pandemic seafood prices, government initiatives

By Hui Ling Dang

- Last updated on GMT

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©Getty Images

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The Japanese government’s initiatives to boost the domestic dairy sector and raise self-sufficiency rate, Suntory’s upcoming price hikes, Kirin’s beer and sugar-free product innovation plans, and the pandemic’s impact on seafood prices feature in this edition of Japan Focus.

Cheese-whiz: Japan announces incentives to boost domestically produced goods

The Japanese government has announced financial incentive plans for the dairy industry and brands to boost consumer demand for locally produced cheese.

With a total budget of about JPY2.2bn (US$14.7mn) requested for this project, the idea is to subsidise dairy producer groups that collect raw milk shipments from farmers for initiatives to expand the sales of this raw milk to be processed into cheese products.

The country hopes this will reduce waste and improve sustainability of the domestic dairy industry.

Suntory price hikes: Beverage giant does not foresee ‘major impact’ from alcohol increases

Suntory expects a “slight demand fluctuation” for its products in light of price increases from April 2024, but does not anticipate a major impact on sales.

The price hikes will be implemented on 19 SKUs of five domestic premium whisky brands, as well as 98 SKUs from 19 brands of whisky, liqueur and wine.

Suntory told FoodNavigator-Asia ​that it has become “difficult to maintain existing prices” due to rising production costs and Free On Board (FOB) prices caused by soaring costs of raw ingredients such as grain, materials, and transportation.

COVID-19 and Japan’s seafood prices: New analysis could help stabilise market in future pandemics

In a recently published study, researchers from Bangladesh Agricultural University and Saitama University analysed how the COVID-19 pandemic affected prices of luxury and cheap seafood at the Tokyo Toyosu wholesale market from 2020 to 2022.

The findings suggest that the luxury seafood market, linked closely to restaurants, faced challenges during mobility restrictions, emphasising the need for policy measures to stabilise prices and provide support to luxury seafood stakeholders during future pandemics.

‘Aggressive measures’: Kirin outlines plans for beer and sugar-free product innovation amid profits slump

Kirin Holdings has outlined plans to implement “aggressive measures” across beer and sugar-free innovation to counter cost increases and capture the changing demands of consumers.

For its Q3FY2023 financial results, the company reported a 6.2% increase year-on-year in revenue to JPY1.55bn (US$10.5bn) and a 4.7% increase year-on-year in normalised operating profit to JPY141.5bn (US$959.2mn).

However, the company also simultaneously reported a decline of -30.3% year-on-year in profits before tax to JPY142.4bn (US$965.3mn), indicating that it is still significantly feeling the impact of rising costs.

‘The only self-sufficient grain’: Japan pouring resources into rice flour innovation expansion in latest food security bid

The Japanese government is planning to commit approximately US$20m into projects to expand the use of rice flour across more food product innovations.

Japan’s weak food security and low self-sufficiency rate came under the spotlight during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to 2023 local government data, the country is only 15% self-sufficient in rice, 26% in dairy, and 9% in beef.

“Rice is the only grain that Japan can hope to become self-sufficient in in the long run, hence we are intensively supporting efforts at every part of the supply chain from production, distribution and consumption to expand the usage of rice flour,”​ Japan’s Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF) said via a formal statement.

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