By Manaho Yamamoto
Rising interest in sober curiosity growing in Japan
Interest in being sober curious, a lifestyle in which people consider a non-alcohol lifestyle or rethink their relationship with alcohol, has been growing worldwide for some time. This trend is no exception in Japan, where a survey by the Asahi Group, which asked 10,000 men and women aged 20-59 about their drinking habits, found that 45% of respondents do not drink alcohol. The proportion is higher among younger generations, with those in their 20s accounting for the majority.
The global and Japanese non-alcoholic beverage market, according to Suntory research, reached its largest-ever size in 2021 at 40.09 million cases, growing 15%. The shift of young people away from alcohol is likely the result of the growing health consciousness associated with the Covid-19 pandemic. In fact, in terms of the brand share of the non-alcoholic market, Asahi Dry Zero and Suntory All Free are ranked one and two respectively, with non-alcoholic beer accounting for almost all other top positions.
This trend of beer brands dominating the non-alcohol market has not changed since we published “Mindful drinking: The rise of alcohol-free alternative beverages in Japan” in 2019.
However, the ‘craft soda’ market is the one to watch, with the global craft soda market size expected to reach USD 1,011.8 million at a CAGR of 5.1% from 2023 to 2030, according to a new report by Grand View Research, Inc. There is global interest in beverages with a focus on organic and natural sweeteners.
Craft Cola, a type of craft soda, is changing the sober-curious lifestyle
One high-end, non-alcoholic drink called ‘craft cola’ is gaining popularity on social networking sites. ‘Craft cola’ refers to colas made using different production methods and ingredients than the ‘Coke’ or ‘Pepsi’ sold by major beverage manufacturers. Just like craft breweries, craft colas similarly employ small-scale production methods, focusing on organic ingredients, spices and blends. Many of these products are made in the same way.
For example, Iyoshi Cola, a specialist craft cola manufacturer with a workshop in Tokyo, is one of the oldest producers, selling craft cola before it was well known in Japan. The price of a single 250 ml bottle of undiluted cola syrup is as high as 3,150 yen (£17.15). Despite this, Iyoshi Cola is highly popular for its stylish packaging, logo and a taste that sets it apart from mass-produced products.
Why the popularity of craft colas? “Sober” as a proactive option for Gen Z in Japan
Non-alcoholic drinks originally became popular in Japan in 2007. In that year, the penalty for driving under the influence became stricter, with a penalty of up to five years in prison or a fine of up to one million yen. This is said to have led to more people refraining from drinking alcohol when eating out, opening up the non-alcohol market.
More recently, the Covid-19 pandemic resulted in people being hesitant to go to drinking parties. Japan has followed the West in that there is a growing interest in choosing to be sober as it is considered a cool, ‘hipster’ lifestyle. The diverse range of non-alcoholic beverages has also increased. It may be worth noting that upmarket craft soft drinks are spreading in Japan, especially among the young people of Generation Z who do not drink alcohol.
Are you looking to learn more about or enter Japan’s sober curious market?
Tokyoesque has extensive experience in the beverage sector, including assisting international industry organisations in acquiring practical knowledge about exporting to Japan through market research on the Japanese organic food and beverage sector.
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