Japan’s biggest brewer Asahi trying to attract sober Generation Z

Mariko Oi,Economic journalist

Getty Images People drink beer at a New Year's party at a Tokyo pub.Getty Images

Name has traditionally played an important role in Japanese businesses

For thousands of years, alcohol has been used as a social lubricant. In Japan, it is called communication – a combination of the Japanese word meaning drink, nomuand communication.

The idea is that drinking alcohol creates a more relaxed environment.

Businesses have even tackled difficult issues in pubs rather than boardrooms.

The late former chairman of then-bankrupt Japan Airlines, Kazuo Inamori, explained in 2012 how he used beer to get his employees to open up.

But now there is a whole new generation who chooses not to drink as much. Numerous studies from the UK, US and Australia show that Gen Zers are more sober than their parents and grandparents.

In Japan, faced with declining alcohol tax revenues, the authorities even organized a national competition, called Sake Viva!, with the aim of reversing the trend in 2022.

The sober generation is not only affecting Japan’s tax revenue, it is also posing a whole new challenge for companies that make and sell alcohol.

Getty Images Atsushi Katsuki, CEO of Asahi Group Holdings.Getty Images

Atsushi Katsuki, CEO of Asahi Group Holdings

“We realized that young people are increasingly choosing not to drink so much alcohol,” said Atsushi Katsuki, chairman and CEO of Asahi Group Holdings.

However, Japan’s largest brewer sees this as both a risk and an opportunity.

“Our business is very unique because although the majority of our sales come from beer and alcoholic beverages, we also have the ability to produce soft drinks or soft drinks, which gives us a competitive advantage,” did he declare.

Asahi also offers non-alcoholic products and what it calls low-alcohol offerings, such as non-alcoholic beer or drinks with less than 3.5% alcohol. – outside its national market.

“By 2030, we want to double the share of low- and no-alcohol drinks to 20% of our overall drinks sales,” he said.

They are already popular in its domestic market. Mr. Katsuki said that non-alcoholic beers account for 10% of Asahi’s beverage sales in Japan as people avoid driving drunk.

But the Japanese market is shrinking due to an aging population and falling birth rates.

“Sales of alcoholic beverages in Japan will continue to decline because we cannot combat the population decline, which means we cannot expect massive growth in the Japanese market,” he said. declared.

This means that Asahi main growth opportunities lie abroad and it has been developing rapidly abroad for 15 years. Today, more than half of its sales are made outside Japan.

One of the major markets that the company has yet to tap into is the United States. The question is: can non-alcoholic beer become as popular there as in Japan?

Vincent Ball Vincent Ball and Samantha Benaitis.Vincent Boule

Vincent Ball and Samantha Benaitis choose not to drink a lot of alcohol

Vincent Ball and Samantha Benaitis are a 20-year-old couple living in Jacksonville, Florida. In the United States, alcohol laws vary by state, but the minimum age to purchase alcohol is 21 nationwide.

While their family members over the age of 40 enjoy boozy nights out, Gen Z doesn’t drink much alcohol.

“I think drinking in moderation is totally OK,” Vincent said, adding that he would enjoy having a beer after work but “no crazy parties.”

“I just find other things more enjoyable, and I don’t find drinking very important, especially at a party.”

For Samantha, it was a lesson learned from seeing others drink heavily.

“I was definitely influenced by the fact that everyone around me in my life was too drunk or hammered and making mistakes that would impact them for the rest of their lives rather than just that night.”

So instead, Samantha drinks kombucha – a fermented black or green tea, often flavored – because “if you just drink water, I’ve been asked many times, oh, do you really just drink water?”

To avoid peer pressure, would they drink non-alcoholic beer? Their answer was a resounding “no.”

Layla NealJosie Ball.Layla Neal

Josie Ball, 18, says she understands why some people drink a lot

Asked how Asahi would tackle new non-alcoholic consumers like Samantha and Vincent, Mr Katsuki said the company had learned an important lesson.

“We realized that we were producing non-alcoholic drinks from the point of view of alcohol drinkers,” he said, admitting that Asahi has not yet managed to attract non-drinkers.

“We collected data in Japan by asking those who cannot or choose not to drink alcohol to understand what type of products they want.”

In a sign of the uphill battle drinks companies face as they try to win over Gen Z, Vincent’s younger sister Josie opened up about what she thinks about people getting drunk.

“I really understand people who drink too much. Would I do it myself? I hope not, because people tend to make fools of themselves when they drink too much.”

If you, or someone you know, has been affected by alcohol problems, the BBC’s action line contains information on organizations that may be able to help.

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Sara Adm

Aimant les mots, Sara Smith a commencé à écrire dès son plus jeune âge. En tant qu'éditeur en chef de son journal scolaire, il met en valeur ses compétences en racontant des récits impactants. Smith a ensuite étudié le journalisme à l'université Columbia, où il est diplômé en tête de sa classe. Après avoir étudié au New York Times, Sara décroche un poste de journaliste de nouvelles. Depuis dix ans, il a couvert des événements majeurs tels que les élections présidentielles et les catastrophes naturelles. Il a été acclamé pour sa capacité à créer des récits captivants qui capturent l'expérience humaine.
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