TOKYO -- Suntory Holdings is preparing for a worldwide launch of a craft gin developed with U.S.-based subsidiary Beam Suntory as demand for beer slows in advanced economies.
The market for premium gins, made up of mostly craft varieties, has surged globally at an annualized rate of 10%.
Japanese sales of the Roku-brand gin will kick off in July, with international sales locations to be determined later. Subsidiary Suntory Spirits will make the product at its Osaka facility. The gin will have a suggested retail price of 4,000 yen ($35) for a 700ml bottle. The price is roughly triple that of imported Beefeater-brand gin, which the company sells for more than 1,000 yen. Backed by market data collected by both Suntory Spirits and Beam Suntory, the product was developed to embrace both Japanese and overseas trends.
U.K.-based Hendrick's Gin is the current leader in Japan's market for premium gin, logging yearly sales of 1,000 cases. Suntory Spirits eyes the top market share with annual sales of 2,000 cases in 2018.
The global gin market rose about 2% to around 60 million cases in 2016, with the premium market growing 12% to about 8.85 million cases. Higher-priced gin sales are solid even in Japan, where more young people are distancing themselves from alcohol.
Suntory Holdings bought Beam Inc. in 2014 for some $16 billion. Since the acquisition, the two have collaborated on Japanese sales of canned highball drinks containing Beam-brand whisky. But the gin venture marks their first attempt at developing a product for sales overseas. Although the duo cut costs by streamlining procurement and sales outlets, they lacked a product that could capitalize on the tie-up.