The unexpected boom in alcohol-free beer consumption in Japan forecasts,
- a 20% increase in revenue for non and low alcoholic beer at Asahi Group Holdings, and
- a 23% increase this year, and 10% increase in 2020 for this segment at Kirin Holdings.
The rise in no and low alcohol beer is good news for the country entrenched in a pervasive and harmful alcohol norm. As Movendi International reported previously, Japan’s alcohol norm pushes people to use alcohol in everyday settings such as at work with their superiors. It goes to the extreme of intoxicated people passing out in the streets. This norm relates alcohol with building relationships both personally and professionally. Therefore, people loose their choice to stay alcohol-free when they want to.
Even before the pandemic this harmful norm was slowly changing in work culture. With the pandemic, Japanese people have been liberated from this norm, allowing them to make healthy choices.
Strong media advocacy on Japanese television reminding people to stay healthy during the pandemic also influenced healthier choices.
Global alcohol-free beer market
Currently the global non-alcoholic beer market accounts only for 1% of all beer sales. However, Global Market Insights forecasts a 65% or $29 billion growth from 2019 to 2026. It is the more health conscious millennials and Gen Z who are largely driving the global trend for low and no alcohol beverages. Still, the rise in this segment in Japan was surprising for the alcohol industry. Low and non alcoholic beer was not that popular in Japan as other countries before. It made up only 5% of all Japan beer sales in 2019, compared to 20% for Australia and 12% for Germany, according to Euromonitor data.
This has led the Japanese alcohol industry to make innovations in low and non alcoholic beer. Examples include Asahi’s 0.5%-strength “Beery” and Kirin’s “Green’s Free” no-alcohol beer.
While growing availability of low and no alcohol choices for people is positive, alcohol policy in Japan still needs improving. Specifically because sales of liquor and high-proof cocktails also increased during the pandemic. This signals people may be consuming more alcohol at home as well. The Japanese government can improve their alcohol policy by raising the price of alcohol, reducing the high availability and by ensuring minors are protected from alcohol.