Asahi beer (pic: Asahi)
Asia Japan Whisky

Japan’s top brewer Asahi announces first price hike in 14 years

Japan's drinks giants Asahi and Suntory have announced price hikes of up to 28% for its main beverages from beer to whisky.

Japan’s largest beer maker Asahi announced its first price hike for canned beer in 14 years, along with whisky and other products under heightening cost pressure and consumer demand. 

From 1 Oct, retail prices on its 162 items will rise including the flagship Asahi Super Dry beer, non-alcoholic drinks, chuhai canned cocktails and domestic whisky. 

Beer retail price will rise from 6-10%, while whisky will see a jump of 7-17%.

Explaining the decision, the company said most of the affected beverages have been tackling heightening costs for raw materials, packaging materials, energy costs, and logistics costs due to “rising oil prices and international turmoil”.

Expecting the costs to rise continually, “it will be difficult to offset these increases through purely our own corporate efforts,” Asahi said in its press release.

Asahi currently owns nearly 40% of the beer market share in Japan.

Asahi beer (pic: Asahi)
Asahi beer price will rise up to 10% (pic: Asahi)

Other top brewers Kirin Holdings Co and Sapporo Holdings Ltd said on Wednesday they are also considering price increases but no decision has been made yet. Suntory Holdings had no comment regarding price increase plans.

After decades-long deflation, consumer price pressures in Japan were stimulated by soaring cost of fuel and other commodities amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and global logistics jam incurred by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The cumulative costs of the four top Japanese brewers were expected to rise more than 80 billion yen (US$611 million) this year as of February, Nikkei Asia reports.

Apart from rising costs, Asahi and Suntory revealed that surging demands for Japanese whiskies are pushing the price hike.

As “the overall whisky market continues to expand”, Asahi said it is actively investing in facilities at the Nikka Whisky Yoichi and Miyagikyo distilleries to increase production capacity and respond to rising costs.

Prior to Asahi’s price increase, Suntory announced price increase on the retail prices of 31 different products from eight whisky brands last December, which took effect starting on 1 April this year. The increase rate ranges between 5-28%.

Suntory's Japanese whisky prices will rise 28% due to costs pressure and consumer demand (pic: Gear Patrol)
Suntory’s Japanese whisky prices will rise 5-28% due to costs pressure and consumer demand (pic: Gear Patrol)

The affected brands are Suntory’s Hibiki, Yamazaki, Shirasu, and Chita; Scottish whisky brands Macallan, Glenfiddich, and Balvenie; and the Irish whisky Tullamore D.E.W.

Speaking of the price increase, Suntory said it has been investing in additional casks and storage warehouses but it was not enough to cope with the growing thirst for whisky. The company hoped to use the profits in expanding its distilling capabilities and storage capacity.

Whisky lovers also hope the price increase on whisky can stabilise the skyrocketing whisky prices in Japan.

In recent years, rare Japanese whiskies have become increasingly popular collection items due to its prestigious craftsmanship and limited supply. 

Knight Frank Luxury Investment Index 2021 showed that rare whiskey has topped the chart for 10-year investment index with a 483% increase in value over years, as we have reported.

Last year, Bonhams Hong Kong Whisky and Wine achieved a record breaking sales of HK$124 million (US$16 million), proving the price surge and bullish demand for whisky and fine wine investment despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

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