International Sake Sales Continue to Rise

Historically, the sake industry has been confined to the shores of Japan, being enjoyed at dinner tables around the country, at home or in restaurants, with international sales making up a tiny percentage of the total annual sales volume. However, in recent times, the world has developed something of a taste for this elegant rice wine, and this interest is set to further intensify going forward. 

In fact, it was recently announced that sake sales on the international market have risen for a 12th consecutive year, with the likes of the USA and Europe showing a particular interest. The Japan Sake and Shochu Makers Association reported that exports of sake totaled $294m USD in 2021.

This growth in global sales couldn’t come at a better time for Japan’s sake producers. The national consumption within Japan has dropped significantly, by as much as 30% over the last decade. The industry owes this drop in popularity to the rise of other wines and spirits, including whisky, shochu and Koshu white wine, which all give consumers many more options when it comes to choosing their alcoholic beverage of choice. 

Industry professionals are hopeful that these national sales will return in due time and are currently working towards that end. However, they also recognise the importance of the international market and are therefore looking to further boost sake’s popularity abroad, introducing the iconic Japanese drink to markets who may not yet have experienced all of the joys within.

Why Is Sake Growing Abroad?


So that raises the question, what is it about sake that has suddenly grabbed non-Japanese peoples’ attention, resulting in this increase in popularity abroad? 

Jumpei Sato, the Chief Executive of Sake Brewer Tatenokawa, stated he believes the first thing worth considering is a growing appreciation of Japanese culture and food around the globe. This is leading to more and more people looking to try Japanese food, drinks and pairings of the two either at home or local Japanese restaurants.

He says the second thing worth noting is that producers are purposefully exporting only their very best, high-end creations, while in some cases they are also adjusting their recipes to increase levels of natural acid, which makes them pair better with fattier Western foods, while also appealing more to wine enthusiasts. 

Thus far, it seems to be working. On top of the huge and steady increase in sales abroad, many international wine competitions have already created categories for sake and they have their very own experts tasting, judging and awarding imported expressions. This is something that you simply could not have imagined two decades ago, and it’s a fantastic sign for the long term growth of the industry. 

With all of this in mind, the overall picture of the future of the sake industry is a bright one, with international sales predicted to continue rising in the years ahead and hopes of sales within Japan recovering. However, the latter will only happen should producers be able to stem the influx of cheaper, lower quality products at home and reignite their country’s confidence in a drink that has been an enormous part of their lives for centuries. 

For those of you living outside of Japan, there’s never been a better time to explore the sake landscape and we may even have some recommendations for you in the coming weeks.

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