As part of his “Abenomics” growth strategy, Prime Minister Shinzō Abe pledged to improve the status of women in the Japanese workplace in a country where female participation in the labour force, while increasing in recent years, remains far lower than in other rich countries. According to a recent report by Reuters, what has also been rising is wine consumption among the growing ranks of working women.
While saké, the Japanese rice wine, remains the dominant type of wine consumed in Japan, sales volumes have been stagnant since 2011. In the same period, still wines made from grapes have continued to increase their market share on an average of 4.5% a year. Per capita figures have risen to an estimated 2.4 litres, but at less than four bottles per annum, wine consumption in Japan remains far behind that of the European leaders such as France at more than 42 litres or even the U.S. at 10.25 litres.
Wine marketing in Japan is increasingly targeting the female population whose discretionary income has risen as their participation in the labour market expands. The region that has most profited from the trend has been Chile whose wines have the reputation of being both affordable and enjoyable as a taste experience. 2015 figures from the U.S. Department of Agriculture show an average value of $2.97 a litre for imported Chilean wine in Japan in contrast to $9.74 for wine coming from the U.S. or to $7.95 for French wine which the Japanese used to favour. The Chilean surge is likely to continue as tariffs on its wines are on track to be gradually reduced to zero by 2019 from the 2015 rate of 4.6%, a move that will accord Chile a substantial price advantage over its competitors.