Sep 26, 2016

    Sake sales slump in Japan but boom overseas


    OZAWA Shuzo brewery hums with activity as boxed bottles of sake are loaded onto trucks.

    But with the domestic market shrinking, more of it is bound for burgeoning overseas markets where the centuries-old drink is all the rage.

    The small establishment has recently drawn interest from potential new customers in Thailand, Vietnam and South Korea, on top of a coterie of existing ones in the United States, France and Singapore.

    Sake, a fermented drink made of rice, has hit hard times in its homeland amid changing tastes, but manufacturers are welcoming its growing popularity overseas.

    Sake exports have doubled in the past decade to some 18,180 kilolitres, according to Japanese government figures,

    The United States is the largest single foreign market, accounting for about one-quarter of the total.

    Major export destinations are the US, Taiwan, Hong Kong, China and South Korea, according to the agriculture ministry.

    Shipments to fastest-growing market China shot up more than three-fold between 2008 and last year, while they more than doubled to South Korea during that time.

    Government data show some 89,000 Japanese restaurants existed outside Japan as of July 2015, up sharply from 55,000 just two years before.

    But domestically, sake consumption has tumbled to about 557,000 kilolitres in 2014 from 746,000 kilolitres a decade earlier, the government said.

    Younger people see the drink as uncool and prefer western beverages such as whisky and wine, while many older men have cut back on imbibing for health reasons.