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Suntory, Asahi go on Asian offensive with shochu cocktails

Makers grasp opportunity as tourists bring taste for Japanese drinks home

Suntory's Horoyoi brand of shochu cocktails on sale at a convenience store in Taiwan.

TOKYO -- Suntory Holdings, Asahi Group Holdings and other Japanese alcohol beverage companies are actively expanding sales of shochu cocktails in greater Asia to serve the growing demand from travelers who return from their visits to Japan.

Cocktails made with shochu, a Japanese distilled spirit, are available in various flavors and levels of alcohol content, and are gaining popularity among Asian visitors to Japan. The drinks are a popular souvenir and named a must-buy item on websites catering to visitors to Japan, hence the growing focus.

Suntory plans to launch the Horoyoi brand of cocktails in Singapore and the Philippines within weeks. Pitched for "drinking in" at home, they will be sold mainly in convenience stores. Prices will vary by factors such as customs duties. The price per can will be around the equivalent of 330 yen ($2.96) in Singapore, and roughly 130 yen in the Philippines.

With alcohol content of just 3%, half that of beer, Horoyoi cocktails are easy to drink. Suntory intends to use the Japanese-language label as is, aiming to establish a brand image associated with high quality. Last year, hundreds of thousands of cases of Horoyoi cocktails were sold in Taiwan, Hong Kong and South Korea. Suntory is now extending the brand to Southeast Asia.

Meanwhile, Asahi has launched the overseas sale of the Mogitate cocktail brand, which it released in Japan in April 2016. Mogitate, meaning "freshly picked," features fresh fruit flavors and targets drinkers in their 30s and 40s. In a year since its release, sales have reached around 9 million cases, the most ever for the company's canned shochu cocktails.

Asahi aims to increase its exports of canned shochu cocktails by at least 20% this year, by adding this mainstay brand to other products abroad, like the Cocktail Partner products sold mainly in East Asia.

Kirin Holdings began exporting its Hyoketsu brand of cocktails in 2013, and it now also exports Honshibori, which contains abundant fruit juice.

More and more visitors are bulk-buying canned shochu cocktails in convenience stores and elsewhere, says an executive of an alcohol beverage company.

The Japanese market for ready-to-drink alcoholic beverages, including canned shochu cocktails, grew about 70% over a decade to 168 million cases in 2016, according to Suntory. 

(Nikkei)

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