Grape growers, 10,000 miles away from Japan are cheering by Japan’s swelling ranks of working women.
The biggest beneficiary of Japan’s booming wine market is Chilean vintners. Women in their 40s and 50s, who have helped boost wine consumption to a new record every year since 2012 as their low-priced, fruit-driven product has found a receptive niche in the group.
“Women drink more as their participation in the labor market is increasing, and their disposable incomes are expanding,” said Naoko Kuga, an analyst who tracks lifestyle changes at NLI Research Institute in Tokyo. “This trend works positively for wine consumption.”
A 24 percent jump in third-quarter sales volumes to Japan in November was reported by Bottom of Form
Vina Concha & Toro SA, the Santiago-based producer of Casillero del Diablo cabernet sauvignons and merlots.
To help promote sales through in-store tastings in Osaka, Japan’s industrial heartland, wine judge Yumi Kunimi was hired in 2014 by Aeon Co., the nation’s largest supermarket-chain operator.
“Some customers said they’d never tried wine before, and became big fans from the tastings in our shops,” Kunimi said.
Kunni said that the most appealing to women, and the best to enjoy with Japanese food and picked by an annual gathering of female sommeliers, wine buyers and consultants are featured lines that are typically priced at less than 2,000 yen ($18) a bottle.
According to Euromonitor International, sales volumes of Sake, made from fermented rice, is the dominant wine consumed in Japan, haven’t increased since 2011.
Euromonitor data show that over the past six years there has been an increase of an average of 4.5 percent a year in Japan in consumption of still wines made from grapes. The market researcher noted in August that after trying it in tapas bars, which have become popular in Japan, consumers in their 20s and 30s are starting to drink wine at home.
“Wine consumption in Japan is still four bottles a year per person,” said Kiyoshi Yokoyama, president of Mercian, the wine-making subsidiary of Kirin Holdings Co., and the chairman of Japan Wineries Association. “We have a big potential for growth.”
Hirofumi Mori, a director in the company’s marketing department, said that helped by a 7 percent growth in sales of wine made from locally grown grapes and a 10 percent expansion in imported wine, Mercian plans to boost sales by 3 percent to 7.22 million cases this year.
“Our main target is women,” Mori said in an interview in Tokyo. “We want to increase products that will attract their attention.”
Researcher Euromonitor International predicted in August that wine sales will probably grow only marginally through 2020 in volume terms. Japan’s stagnating economy has meant fewer businessmen are going out drinking with work associates, hurting demand, said Kuga at the NLI Research Institute.
Growth is being tried to be bolstered by industry stalwart Yumi Tanabe. The aim of Tanabe is to double per-capita consumption in the decade through 2020. His father Kaneyasu Marutani founded Japan’s first public winery on the northern island of Hokkaido 54 years ago.
To help other women find jobs in the industry and to match wine with Japanese food, Tanabe began the Japan Women’s Wine Awards three years ago. Entries were seen from 37 countries including Australia, Chile and the U.S. and there were 4,212 entries in all.
“We’re the only organizer of a global wine competition that selects the best bottle for sushi,” she said, noting that a sparkling wine from Spain won that title last year. Judges said the best pairing with yakitori, or Japanese-style grilled chicken with vegetables, was a locally made rose from Suntory Holdings Ltd., Japan’s second-largest winemaker.
(Adapted from Bloomberg)