Sake Nation “Sake breweries since the coronavirus outbreak”

By Kosuke Kuji

Sake breweries in Japan incurred major damage from the coronavirus outbreak.

The greatest blow was from restaurants forced to cease operations due to the initial state of emergency declaration. Although more consumers started to consume sake at home, consumption levels at home did not compare to sake consumed in restaurants. Sake not consumed in restaurants dramatically reduced opportunities for sake consumption overall. 

In the Japanese sake industry, the dramatic drop in sales of sake sold in magnum bottles (1.8 litres) still has not recovered to pre-pandemic volumes. 

Most sake in magnum bottles are sold to restaurants, purchased to sell sake “by the cup.” Opportunities to consume sake in restaurants still haven’t fully recovered to pre-pandemic levels. Therefore, 720 ml sake bottles (smaller than magnum bottles) are sufficient to meet the needs of restaurants, evidenced in the significant increase in production volume of 720 ml bottles since the coronavirus outbreak.   

Restaurants may have seen magnum sake bottles as more “economical” than 720 ml bottles before the pandemic. However, more restaurants increased their inventory of 720 ml bottles in their refrigerators since the coronavirus pandemic to maintain sake quality and offer samples of various sake brands. 

Since this shift in size was noted since the coronavirus pandemic, the magnum bottle may quickly become obsolete in the future.  

The most common size to export sake overseas was 720 ml since the beginning. Therefore, Japanese sake breweries may start to focus on 720 ml bottles in the future.

Quality is more easily managed in a smaller bottle. Hopefully, this change since the coronavirus pandemic will inspire favorable change in both directions.