Asahi, Japan’s largest liquor maker, is trying to attract Generation Z

Mariko Oe,Business Reporter

Getty Images People drink beer at a year-end party at a pub in Tokyo.Getty Images

Nocommunication has traditionally played an important role in Japanese businesses

Alcohol has been used as a social lubricant for thousands of years. In Japan it is Nocommunication – Combination of the Japanese word for drink, NamuAnd communication.

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

Businessmen have resolved difficult issues in pubs rather than conference rooms.

Kazuo Inamori, the late former president of then-bankrupt Japan Airlines, Explained in 2012 How he used beer to get his employees to open up.

But now there’s a whole new generation who He doesn’t want to drink much alcoholSeveral studies conducted in the UK, US and Australia show that Generation Z people are calmer than their parents and grandparents.

In Japan, due to declining alcohol tax revenue, authorities even organised a national competition called ‘Sake Viva!’ In an effort to reverse this trend in 2022,

The alcohol-free generation not only affects Japan’s tax revenue, but also presents a new challenge for businesses that produce and sell alcohol.

Getty Images Atsushi Katsuki, chief executive officer of Asahi Group Holdings.Getty Images

Atsushi Katsuki, chief executive officer of Asahi Group Holdings

“We have realized that young people no longer prefer to drink alcohol,” said Atsushi Katsuki, chief executive officer of Asahi Group Holdings.

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

He said, “Our firm is quite unique because most of our sales come from beer and alcoholic beverages, and we also have the capability to manufacture non-alcoholic beverages or soft drinks, which gives us a competitive advantage.”

Asahi is also promoting its non-alcoholic and low-alcohol products – such as alcohol-free beer or drinks with less than 3.5% alcohol – Outside its home market.

“By 2030, we want to double the share of zero or low alcohol beverages in our total beverage sales to 20%,” he said.

They are already popular in their home market. Mr. Katsuki said Alcohol-free beers account for 10% of Asahi’s beverage sales in Japan, as people avoid drinking and driving.

But the Japanese market is shrinking because of an aging population and declining birth rates.

“Alcoholic beverage sales in Japan will continue to decline as we cannot go against a declining population, which means we cannot expect large-scale growth in the Japanese market,” he said.

This means that Asahi’s main Growth opportunities lie overseas, and it has been expanding rapidly overseas for 15 years. Today, more than half of its sales are outside Japan.

One major market the company hasn’t yet tapped into is the US. The question is: can alcohol-free beer become as popular there as it is in Japan?

Vincent Ball Vincent Ball and Samantha Benaitis.Vincent Ball

Vincent Ball and Samantha Benaitis decide not to drink too much alcohol

Vincent Ball and Samantha Benaitis are a 20-year-old couple living in Jacksonville, Florida. In the US, laws regarding alcohol vary from state to state, but the minimum age to purchase it across the country is 21.

While people over the age of 40 in their families enjoy drinking alcohol, Generation Z people do not drink much.

“I think it’s perfectly fine to drink alcohol in moderation,” Vincent said, adding that he enjoys a beer after work but “doesn’t like going to crazy parties.”

“I find other things more enjoyable, and I don’t find drinking to be as important, especially in a party atmosphere.”

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

“I was definitely influenced in my life by everyone around me who would drink too much or get high, and make mistakes that had ramifications not just for that night, but for a lifetime.”

So instead, Samantha drinks kombucha — a fermented black or green tea, often flavored — Because “If you’re just drinking water, I’ve been asked many times, oh, are you really just drinking water?”

Would they drink non-alcoholic beer to avoid peer pressure? Their answer was “no”.

Layla Neal Josie Ball.Laila Neal

Josie Ball, 18, says she understands why some people drink too much

Asked how Asahi would deal with new, non-drinking consumers such as Samantha and Vincent, Mr. Katsuki said the company had learned an important lesson.

“We realized we were producing non-alcoholic beverages from the perspective of drinkers,” he said, acknowledging that Asahi has not yet been particularly successful in appealing to non-drinkers.

“We’re collecting data in Japan and asking people who can’t or don’t want to drink alcohol to understand what kind of products they want.”

In a sign of the challenges drinks companies face in courting Generation Z, Vincent’s younger sister Josie explained how she feels about people getting drunk.

“I definitely understand people who drink too much. Would I do that myself? I hope I don’t, because people make fools of themselves when they drink too much.”

If you or someone you know is affected by an alcohol problem, BBC Action Line It has details of organisations that can help.

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