Brewers hope Rugby World Cup revives Japan’s thirst for beer

The Yomiuri Shimbun

A vendor sells Heineken beer during a game between Japan and Tonga at the Hanazono Rugby Stadium in Higashiosaka, Osaka Prefecture, on Aug. 3.

The Yomiuri Shimbun “Will Japan be able to supply enough beer during the Rugby World Cup?” — so asked a reporter at a press conference held in Tokyo by World Rugby, the governing body that organizes the World Cup.

Rugby fans drink a lot of beer, a fact backed up by data. According to the Rugby World Cup 2019 organizing committee, a total of 1.3 million liters of beer was consumed at game venues in the Rugby World Cup 2015 in England.

The average beer consumption per game is more than six times that in the English Premier League.

Rugby fans drink so much beer because the games have served as a social venue for many years in Britain and other countries. Fans interact with each other while drinking beer not only during games but before and after as well. World Rugby Chairman Bill Beaumont described the large beer consumption by fans as a tradition.

The organizing committee is calling on restaurants and other establishments around game venues to pay attention to the management of their beer stock. It will also introduce vendors who move through the stands, a practice not common in Europe, allowing spectators to buy beer in their seats for the first time at a Rugby World Cup.

The only beer that will be available at game venues is the Dutch brand Heineken, a worldwide partner. One of world’s leading beer brands, Heineken is consumed in more than 190 countries.

Kirin Brewery Co. produces and sells the Heineken brand in Japan, and more stores are carrying it as the Rugby World Cup approaches. Sales were strong from January to July this year, increasing by 30 percent from a year earlier.

From June, a product has been sold with a special design featuring the Webb Ellis Cup given to the Rugby World Cup winners. This month, Kirin Brewery plans to increase production to about 2.5 times that of a year earlier, and has revised its initial annual sales target upward by 10 percent to about 1.1 million cases.

The upcoming tournament will provide a great business opportunity for Japan’s beer industry. According to Kirin Brewery, the domestic beer market (five major companies, including low-malt beer and other beers) has been shrinking, with annual consumption declining from 5.98 million liters in 2009 to 4.99 million liters in 2018.

As more and more people, mainly young people, are turning away from beer, there are high hopes that the Rugby World Cup will provide a spark for the market. “We hope rugby fans coming from overseas will drink not only Heineken but Japanese beer too,” an official of Kirin Brewery said.

Town pubs are familiar to British people as places to casually enjoy beer. Hub Co., which operates the HUB chain of British-style pubs in Japan, aims to spread the pub culture in Japan by taking advantage of the World Cup.

“In Britain, people drink beer in the daytime. I strongly believe that such a culture of daytime beer drinking will rapidly spread in Japan,” said Tsuyoshi Ota, the president of Hub, based in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo. In fiscal 2019, the company will aim to achieve sales of ¥12.88 billion, up 10 percent from its record high the previous year.Speech

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