Kana Shintani
Food and Drink Analyst, Japan

In 2020, there were active movements in the non-alcoholic spirits and beer market, such as the opening of Japan’s first non-alcoholic bar, 0% and e-commerce website, MARUKU, and launching Japan’s first non-alcoholic spirits, Non.

This nascent category is growing in Japan. Consumers are avoiding drinking and choosing non-alcoholic spirits and beers primarily for their health. In fact, the word ‘休肝日 (kyuukanbi)’ which means resting liver for a day, has become commonly used in advertisements of major non-alcoholic beers, thus helping to normalise the habit of limiting alcohol consumption.

Demand for non-alcoholic spirits and beers has increased during the COVID-19 pandemic, non-alcoholic beer brands in Japan have sought health benefits to meet consumer demands. Three in 10 of the Japanese consumers have consumed non-alcoholic drinks in the past 12 months. Lockdown and stay-at-home orders have been an opportunity for non-alcoholic spirits and beers.  The non-alcoholic beer market is expected to see a 7% growth in 2021 on a YoY basis while 9% of Japanese consumers are thinking of cutting back on their alcohol intake after the COVID-19 subsides. 

Expected positive effects on mood and mental by non-alcoholic spirits and beers

When it comes to choosing non-alcoholic spirits and beers, Japanese consumers tend to choose for similar reasons as alcoholic drinks. They expect non-alcoholic spirits and beers to provide positive such as mood and mental benefits. This tells that non-alcoholic drinks are accepted as alternatives to alcoholic drinks.

In the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, non-alcoholic drinks could also play a role in relieving accumulated stress. More than a third of the consumers are worried about their own family’s stress levels as an impact of COVID-19.

Younger consumers are less involved with alcoholic drinks

The number of consumers who have a habit of drinking alcoholic drinks has decreased among young consumers in Japan. Since young consumers agreed more that they don’t feel the benefit or need of drinking alcoholic drinks, this highlights that non-alcoholic spirits and beer brands can target these young consumers, who are increasingly distancing themselves from alcoholic drinks.

What We Think

Branding is important for non-alcoholic spirits and beers as well as alcoholic drinks. About one in three consumers often drink the drinks from the same manufacturer or brand, whether alcoholic or non-alcoholic. This means once consumers find their favorite products or brands, they could be loyal to brands. Most non-alcoholic beers in Japan are launched by major alcoholic brands. That helps consumers associate non-alcoholic beers with the image of alcohol brands and works negatively especially for young consumers who are staying away from alcoholic drinks. Therefore, creating a brand specialized in non-alcoholic beer is an opportunity of being separated from the image of alcoholic brands. In that case, it’s necessary for brands to promise the taste as young consumers are dissatisfied with the taste of non-alcoholic beer.