While domestic consumption of sake has cooled, sake exports from Japan are on the rise, with the volume and value of sake exports reaching record highs in 2021. In particular, the growth in consumption of high-end sake is remarkable. Sake is an alcoholic beverage of Japanese origin made by fermenting rice that has been polished to remove the bran.
The shift away from alcohol is a global trend, and Japan is no different. According to the Japan’s National Tax Agency, Japanese people drank the most alcohol from 1994 to 2001, and since then there has been a steady decline. Of these, sake has seen a particularly noticeable decline.
Compared to sluggish domestic consumption, exports are doing extremely well: total exports in FY2021 reached 40,178 million yen, a record high for the 12th consecutive year, and export volume was 32,053 kiloliters, also a record high.
The top export destination by value was China, with 10.279 billion yen (177.5% of the previous year’s total). The U.S. ranked first in volume, with 8826 kiloliters (167.5% of last year’s total). France also showed significant growth, with a 230.3% increase in value and a 197.5% increase in quantity.
The reason for the strong exports is the popularity of Japanese food overseas, in addition to manufacturers’ efforts to improve quality, develop high value-added products, and conduct overseas market research.
There is now a rapid increase in the number of Japanese restaurants in China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. The expansion of domestic e-commerce sites and the BYO (bring your own sake) system are also creating an environment in which sake can be sold.
The unit export price has also been rising: in 2011 it was 625.9 yen, but by 2021 it has become 1253.5 yen, almost double the price in 10 years. In Hong Kong, the price has actually tripled.
Once the Covid-19 disaster is over, domestic consumption will rise due to the return of inbound tourism, and exports are expected to grow even more as the supply chain is smoothed out and local tasting events are held in each country.