Japan based Licensed Sake distributor and Japanese Sake exporter of smaller Artisan breweries with generations of history and awards, targeting Sake importers Japan based Licensed Sake distributor and Japanese Sake exporter of smaller Artisan breweries with generations of history and awards, targeting Sake importers

Japanese sake exports to china

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Although Japanese sake exports to China in 2023 will slow down, it will maintain its No. 1 position by export destination, and China’s presence in the sake export market remains high. As the recognition of sake increases in China, the number of opportunities for international sake masters (kisake masters), who are Japanese sake sommeliers, is increasing. This article provides an overview of Japanese sake export statistics to China, the active status of international sake brewers, and trends in the Japanese sake consumption market.


Although sake exports to China are slowing down, they are still the top export destination.


According to trade statistics released by Japan’s Ministry of Finance, Japan’s sake exports to China in 2023 decreased by 21.6% from the previous year to 5,794 kiloliters, and by 12.0% from the previous year to 12.47 billion yen. . Until 2022, it continued to increase except in 2020, when the impact of the new coronavirus disaster was felt, but the slowdown in 2023 is due to the ALPS treated water problem at TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant and the economic slowdown in China. This is thought to be largely due to factors such as sluggish consumption.


Although sake exports to China are slowing down, it will still remain number one (in value terms) by country/region in 2023, with the United States in second place (9.09 billion yen) and Hong Kong in third place (6.0 billion yen). 20 million yen) (see table). Exports to China accounted for 30.4% of the total, an increase of 0.6 points from the previous year, and China’s presence in the sake export market continues to be high.

Source: Created by JETRO from Ministry of Finance trade statistics

Source: Created by JETRO from trade statistics of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries






China Kizake Masters


In China, as the recognition of Japanese sake increases, the number of sake masters, which are Japanese sake sommeliers, is increasing. The qualification system for sake masters was established in 1991 by the Sake Service Research Association and Sake Master Research Association (SSI). Additionally, in 2009, a qualification system was established to conduct the certification exam for Kizake Master in a foreign language, and those who took the test in a foreign language were granted the qualification of ‘‘International Kizake Master.”


The SSI website defines the qualification of a sake master as ‘‘a qualification to help drinkers enjoy delicious sake.” In order to obtain the qualification, skills such as basic and peripheral knowledge of sake, the characteristics of taste and aroma, compatibility with food, and the ability to propose products tailored to the tastes of the drinker are required.


As of the end of January 2024, there are 39,977 certified Kizake masters and 10,428 international Kizake masters. The International Kikisake Certification Examination is held in 15 countries and regions, including Japan, and can be taken in English, Chinese, Korean, French, and Spanish. According to the breakdown data by language as of February 1, 2021, the number of people certified in Chinese is the highest, accounting for 52.7% of the total.


As professionals who serve and communicate sake, kisake masters are active at the forefront of the sake market. We spoke to two Chinese international sake masters about how they came to acquire the qualification, what they have been doing since acquiring the qualification, and the latest trends in the sake consumption market in China.


The number of industry professionals obtaining qualifications has reached a plateau, and nurturing enthusiasts is important.


The first person, Mr. Li Peng, obtained the international sake master qualification in 2017. This qualification exam was introduced in China in 2016, and this is the first time the applicant has taken the exam. Currently, he serves as the vice president of the China International Kizake Masters Association and the (Japanese) National Tax Agency Liquor Export Coordinator, and is working on nurturing international kizake masters and promoting Japanese alcoholic beverages, including sake, in China. We spoke to Mr. Li Peng (Interview date: January 26, 2024).


Mr. Li Peng


Mr. Li Peng giving a lecture at a sake seminar (provided by him): Vice president of the China International Liquor Masters Association.



What are the latest market trends surrounding sake?


Although there are no accurate statistics on the amount of Japanese sake distributed in China, it is estimated that there are approximately 3,000 SKUs (Note 2). Until around 2016, I often had to go to Japan to find new products, but now I can find them in China with almost no inconvenience. The retail price of 720 milliliters (ml) of sake starts at around 200 yuan (approximately 4,200 yen, 1 yuan = approximately 21 yen) on EC (electronic commerce), and products with premium prices can exceed 2,000 yuan. be. Therefore, the main customer base has to be middle-to-high income earners and those who prefer lower alcoholic beverages. Generally, many men in their 40s and 50s prefer high-strength baijiu, but this group is unlikely to be the main target.


The Japanese sake market in 2023 suffered major damage. This is largely due to the ALPS treated water issue and the slump in consumption in China, with a particularly sharp drop in the consumption of sake at Japanese restaurants. The impact is expected to continue in 2024, and the number of winners and losers will continue to increase. It will become even more important to thoroughly study the Chinese market and work steadily to develop the brand.


Up until now, the main sales channels for sake have been Japanese restaurants, high-end supermarkets, and e-commerce, but in the future it will also be important to open up Chinese restaurants. Among these, it is said to be effective to develop sales channels that have an influence on the target group, such as collaborating with Michelin-starred restaurants and unique stores that are frequented by consumers looking for new trends. Additionally, as the number of cases in which consumers bring alcohol to restaurants is increasing, it is important to develop e-commerce sales channels that are commonly used by general consumers.


Promoting the appeal of Japanese sake in collaboration with Chinese food


The second person, Mr. Fan Yuchen, obtained the international sake master qualification in 2021. She currently runs a Chinese restaurant in Beijing that specializes in vegetarian food and sake. She spoke to Mr. Fan Yuchen (Interview date: February 1, 2024).



What led you to obtain the international sake master qualification?


I encountered sake for the first time in 2019. Up until then, she had mainly drank wine and beer, but she realized that sake suited her best. She was captivated by the rich aroma that brought out the umami of rice and the light, refreshing aftertaste. Wanting to further explore the appeal of sake, she went to a sake bar to learn from a sake master, and in 2021, after systematic study at school, she received the international qualification of a sake master.



What is your progress after obtaining the qualification?


An 18-seat vegetarian restaurant will open in Beijing at the end of 2022. Because he loves Japanese sake and has determined that vegetarian food and sake go well together, he only lists sake on his alcohol menu. The company sells 30 to 40 items in bottles and cups, with the selling price range for 720ml being 300 to 3,000 yuan, and 60 to 100 yuan for cups (80ml). A relatively large number of customers are women around the age of 30, and many of them order from the cup sellers. He opens more than a dozen brands a day.


The store opens at 6 p.m., and more customers start ordering food and alcohol after 8 p.m. Customers order their food in advance, and the restaurant recommends sake that goes well with that dish. Seasoned in the style of Sichuan cuisine, we often suggest sparkling, relatively sweet sake for purely spicy dishes, and dry sake for sweet but slightly spicy dishes. 95% of the customers are beginners to sake, and the majority say that the sake is easy to drink. In addition, some customers had negative impressions of sake, such as thinking that it had a high alcohol content before coming to the store, but after tasting it at our store, some customers have become sake lovers.


Most beginners are very interested in the taste of sake, and often ask questions such as ‘‘Why does it have a fruity aroma?” and ‘‘What is the difference between sweet and dry sake?” Displaying the International Kizake Master’s qualification certificate in the store will increase customers’ trust in my explanations and will also help promote the store. Also, the main factors considered when purchasing products are taste, label, and price, of which taste is the most important. The knowledge I learned when I acquired my sake master qualification comes into play when deciding whether a flavor will suit our customer base or the cuisine.



What is the impact of slumping consumption?


It has definitely been affected by the slump in consumption. Until the first half of 2023, a 720ml bottle sold for around 600 yuan, but from the second half of the same year it has dropped to around 400 yuan. Additionally, the number of customers who only want to eat is increasing. On the other hand, the number of customers who order sake over 800 yuan remains the same as before, so there has been no major impact. We plan to continue to strengthen collaborations between vegetarian dishes and sake. First of all, we want our customers to enjoy the food, and in the process, we want to naturally convey the appeal of Japanese sake.


Parts Kindly reproduced from:  https://forbesjapan.com/articles/detail/67548





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