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Japan’s first zero-carb beer sells through the roof

Japan's first zero-sugar and zero-carb beer proves to be a huge success upon release, affirming the country's growing health trend for low-carb beverages.

Kirin Brewery Co., a major beer producer in Japan, launched Japan’s first zero-sugar and zero-carb beer, named ‘Kirin Ichiban Shibori Toushitsu Zero’ earlier in October. Within five days after its release, it reached more than 50% of the annual sales target, buoyed by consumer’s growing health consciousness.

According to a press release from Kirin beer dated October 12, ‘Kirin Ichiban Shibori Toushitsu Zero’ which was put on the market on October 6 hit 650,000 cases (one case= 633ml*12 bottles) of sales within five days. This represents 54% of the annual sales target of 1,200,000 cases. 

Kirin’s zero-carb beer

Obviously, this new beer captured the hearts of beer lovers who are concerned about excessive consumption of carbohydrates. The Japanese Liquor Tax Act classifies beers into three categories: beers, low-malt beers and beer-like beverages. Briefly speaking, beers use at least 50% malt, while low-malt beers use less than 50% of malt or use undesignated materials, and beer-like beverages use materials other than barleys and malts.

This is the country’s first zero-sugar regular beer. According to the company’s press release, it is “the first product in Japan to achieve zero sugar”, and “the first product in Japan to achieve zero carbohydrates in beer, based on our research using Mintel GNPD.”

So far, zero- / low- carb or zero-/ low- purine products that appeal to the health-conscious consumers are all from the low-malt beers and beer-like beverages. The main reason is that it is very difficult to cut carbohydrates in beers which use more malt.

To make the beer, Kirin beer reviewed all production procedure starting from the selection of malts and they succeeded in producing a zero-carb beer without losing “umami” from malts after more than 350 brewing trials over five years!

Furthermore, the timing of the release was strategically considered. On October 1, the liquor taxes in Japan were revised and the tax for beers was cut by seven yen per 350 ml. ‘Kirin Ichiban Shibori Toushitsu Zero’ was released just after the revision of the liquor taxes, which helped to boost its sales.

The success of the zero-carb beer affirms Japan’s health trend. According to a report by Japanese language media Shuhan news, out of accumulated total sales volume of beer groups ( beers, low-malt beers and beer-like beverages) from January to September, zero- / low- carb or purine products account for 17.9%, showing a 6.2% increase over the same period last year.

Especially in April and May, when state of emergency was declared by the government and people were strongly requested to stay home, the sales volume of zero- / low- carb or purine products showed an increase of 10% in April and 11.8% in May year-on-year. Perhaps people were more conscious about health when they are confined at home without much exercise.

Kirin beer analyzes that the beer’s success reflects the growing demand of Japan’s health-conscious beer consumers. Will this first zero-carb beer trigger an explosion in sales of zero- / low- carb or purine products ? It will be interesting to follow the trend in the future.

Read more:

The rise of Japan’s non-alcoholic movement

Japan to revise alcohol tax

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