Sake exports reached USD 212M in 2019, a record for the 10th consecutive year. This accounts for about 35% of the total export value (USD 600M) of Japanese alcoholic beverages.
The compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of sake export value over the 10 years to 2019 is stable at 12.5%. The number of countries to which sake was exported fell by two countries to 69 countries. (Since Singapore and Germany have become re-export hubs for Asia and Europe respectively, the number of direct importing countries does not match the total number of countries importing sake.) The average export price was $ 4 per bottle in 2010, but in 2019 it was $ 6.10, a true value increase of over 50% in the past decade.
On a year-on-year basis, China has the highest growth rate of major countries. China’s CAGR over the past 10 years is 35.6%, and is expected to be the number one export destination by 2021. Cool Japan Fund also completed its investment in China’s fine wine distributor EMW in June 2019, aiming to expand its sake distribution in China.
Perhaps the biggest contributor to the sake export boost was the steady growth in the number of Japanese restaurants across the world. According to a survey by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, the number of Japanese restaurants increased by 32%, from 118,000 in 2017 to 156,000 in 2019. Given that there were only 24,000 worldwide in 2006, this has been more than a six-fold increase in just 14 years. The breakdown of the number of Japanese restaurants by region in 2019 is 29,400 in North America, 6,100 in South America, 101,000 in Asia, 3,400 in Oceania, 12,200 in Europe, and 4,100 in other regions.
According to Drinks Business, about 30% of UK wine-based restaurants already carry sake. In Germany and Italy, for example, the number of bars that sell sake is increasing and sake was in a part of the Paris Collection in February 2019 for the first time. Opportunities for promoting to high-end consumers are increasing and the number of sake breweries conducting masterclasses and sake maker’s dinners (like a wine maker’s dinner at high-end restaurants) are increased.
On the other hand, exports to South Korea continued to be almost zero in the second half of 2019 due to the effects of the boycott of Japanese goods, which began as the relationship between South Korea and Japan deteriorated.
The EPA with the EU came into effect in February 2019, which had been reported to partially contribute to expand exports of sake, but the tariff abolished there was a negligible 0.077 euro / L. It is also important to note that the FTA with the United States, which is under negotiation, is proposed to increase exports, but at a price reduction of only 3 cents / L, the impact is yet to be seen.
More generally, the number of contact points with sake, mainly at Japanese restaurants, is increasing slowly but steadily. While there remain challenges for a rapid uptick in the international appetite for sake, most sake brewers are very positive about the future of the global sake market. In the wake of the Tokyo Olympics, the number of people who have contact with sake will expand, and those who (re)discover the charm of sake will further increase demand.