In recent years, ProWein Düsseldorf has become one of the most important exhibitions in the world, especially for wine professionals. According to the organizers, a total of 7,000 exhibitors are scheduled to participate in 2020, with visitors of more than 60,000 alcohol industry professionals. (Half of these are from outside Germany.)
For the third year running, the Japan Sake and Shochu Makers Association (JSS) is hosting a Japanese sake pavilion, featuring 22 sake breweries, two shochu makers and one awamori maker. Senior Manager of the Overseas Business Group of JSS ,Ms Hiromi Iuchi said “ProWein is an exhibition where not only super-famous manufacturers promote their wine and spirits, but countries by themselves also do so for those categories. In order to raise the awareness of sake and shochu as national liquors, Japanese sake and shochu will be exhibited at ProWein, where people gather from all over the world. I have met a lot of people who said “I’ve heard of sake but never tried it” or “I’ve tried sake, but I didn’t like it”Sake exports growth tracks closely with growth in the number of Japanese restaurants, indicating that non-Japanese restaurants generally don’t stock sake in a significant manner. Thus we will be exhibiting for professionals.”
Among the participating breweries is Kobe Shushinkan, which was founded in the Nada area of Kobe in 1751 and is now famous as a producer of the sake “Fukujyu” provided at official Nobel Prize events. Takenosuke Yasufuku, the 13th generation brewery owner, will personally attend Prowein. “The purpose of this exhibition is to find potential partners (importers) in new countries,” he said.
In addition, executive secretary of Miyasaka Sake Brewery in Nagano Prefecture (known for “Masumi”),Katsuhiko Miyasaka has great expectations for ProWein as well. As, he says “Participating in this fair is crucial for continuous branding to the world and it is also an efficient way further engage existing customers”.
It is clear why sake will be exhibited at the world’s most important wine and spirits exhibition. Sake is now one of the hottest premium brews in the world, and its distribution abroad is expanding. Until 2018, shipment values recorded a record high for the ninth consecutive year with total amount of 200 million USD, and as of January-November 2019, sales have grown steadily to +5% year-on-year. To support this, the Japanese government has budgeted over $23 million USD for the international marketing and sales strategy of sake and other Japanese alcoholic beverages in 2020 – 10 times larger than the 2019 budget. Working directly with each sake brewer, this strategy will enhance measures to expand exports from every angle and actively promote export business through contact with importers.
The global environment surrounding sake has changed dramatically over the past decade. Until recently, there was widespread misunderstanding of spirits and misconceptions about what appropriate drinking temperatures. However thanks to sake education worldwide by WSET, other sake educational organizations and also sake competitions, there is a better understanding of category understanding and the appeal of taste, gaining sake fans all over. This fan base has grown with sake’s suitability for food pairing areas that cannot be covered well with wine, such as umami, bitter and spicy. In addition, in pairing with raw fish, there is a great place for sake as well as wine. The fat contained in raw fish has seen consumers shun wines with mid-to-high iron content due to the oxidized odors, but sake with an extremely low iron content is effective for pairing. Today, not only sushi-oriented Japanese authentic restaurants, but Michelin-starred and other world-famous restaurants are increasingly listing sakes.
Japan attracted a record high of32 million international tourists in 2019, and with the Tokyo Olympics this year, that number expected to grow by millions more.. Consumption behavior of tourists visiting Japan for the 2019 Rugby World Cup has shown that those who experienced sake in Japan have returned home with a love for, and continued consumption of, sake. Importers handling sake will therefore likely increase by the start of the Olympics. 2020 will be a year of unprecedented growth for the global expansion of sake.