Alcohol-free World #6: Interview with Sake Brewery Gekkeikan
Gekkeikan launched Japan's first non-alcoholic sake brand in 2013.
Hello, Market Shakers!
On the menu today, an awesome interview with historic sake manufacturer Gekkeikan, behind Japan’s unique non-alcoholic rice wine Gekkeikan Special Free.
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Gekkeikan is a centuries-old sake brewery committed to lead the market, bridging health, refreshment, and R&D
Going back to 1637, Gekkeikan is an emblematic historical sake brewery based in Kyoto. Always forward-thinking, the brewery became the first sake manufacturer to establish a research institute dedicated to science and technology in sake brewing.
Today, the company is also a wine and beer importer and wholesaler, caring about bringing quality and innovation to consumers’ tables. In line with their aspiration to bridge health and development, the sake brewer launched Gekkeikan Free, a sake-tasting product with 0.00% of alcohol, in 2014.
Gekkeikan invested over a decade of research to develop and improve the taste and quality of non-alcoholic sake.
In June 2002, Japan revised its Road Traffic Law, with harsher penalties for drunk driving. This stimulated the development of non-alcoholic beverages. At the time, non-alcoholic products available on the market were all under 1% ABV. In 2003, Gekkeikan was internally working on a sake-flavored beverage with less than 1% ABV.
In 2009, the first 0.00% ABV beer came out to the market, and the category picked up some steam in Japan. Seeing how the market responded well to the non-alcoholic trends, Gekkeikan came up with a new project to commercialize a sake-tasting beverage at 0.00% in 2011. But developing a satisfactory non-alcoholic sake was not an easy road for Gekkeikan. It was crucial for the R&D team to drastically change how they conceive the sake-making process, from subtracting the alcohol content (three times that of a beer) to adding bitter, pungent, and astringent flavors. The success factor to their recipe is the aroma, close to Daiginjo sake.
However, between 2003 and 2011, Gekkeikan accumulated solid technical know-how through research. Instead of subtracting the alcohol, they turned the idea around. They looked at adding flavor to a 0.00% product.
The R&D team came up with two hypotheses. The first was the stimulating sensation of alcohol, the second, the aroma.
Gekkeikan launched their non-alcoholic sake Geikkeikan Free (245 ml bottle) on the market in September 2014. The reception was positive. But they received requests for a product with a lower calorie and sugar content. To remove the sugar was a new challenge, but the excellent R&D team came through with a new product Geikkeikan NEW Free launched one year later, in September 2015.
The two earlier products, Gekkeikan Free and Gekkeikan NEW Free were ordinary sake types. However, the brewing company felt they needed to develop a more delicious sake flavored beverage. So, in 2019, they launched Special Free, a Daiginjo sake type, one of the most popular types of sake.
Gekkeikan Special Free caters to a wide range of consumers and fits well in an expanding market
Gekkeikan’s lineup mainly meets the needs of consumers enjoying sake but looking to reduce their alcohol intake. However, their 2019 and 2021 products are also garnering attention from consumers that are not initially sake connoisseurs.
Recently, the rise of health awareness led the non-alcoholic beverage market to expand, especially in the beer, wine, spirits, chuhai, cocktails, plum wine, and sake categories.
Gekkeikan believes that the need for their product will increase due to the rising global demand for health and lower-alcohol and non-alcohol consumption trends. The pandemic opened opportunities for new products to make their way through the market.
That’s all, folks!
This interview caps off our Alcohol-free World cycle and Market Shake for 2021. We hope you enjoyed the ride as much as we did.
We’ll be back on January 11th to kick off the year with an exciting cycle on products that are guaranteed to generate plenty of buzz in 2022. Stay tuned until next month to find out more and, in the meantime, we wish all our readers a warm and wonderful winter break!
Made with ❤️ by GourmetPro - Food & Beverage experts in Japan.
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