Masumi Sake plans major brand shift

Q: As the maker of premium sake in Japan, how does Masumi plan to grow sales in the next five years?

A: These next five years will see some big changes that we are confident will boost our sales.
First, we are already engaged in an effort to shift our brand focus and product lines to emphasize the fact that Masumi is the origin of the single most important sake yeast variety in current use: Association Yeast Number Seven. This yeast was discovered at our brewery in 1946, and it remains the most commonly used sake yeast in the world. This shift in brand story will include a renewal of our packaging to make it more attractive and informative to both domestic and overseas customers.
Along with the general move toward yeast number seven in product development, we plan to bring out new varieties of our very popular lower-alcohol sake. We pioneered this 12% ABV type of premium sake ten years ago, and its stellar performance has shown that demand is high for sake that is lower in alcohol than the standard 15%. We will bring out other innovative products, such as effervescent varieties and additional bottle-fermented sparkling sake to complement our current high-end Masumi Sparkling product.
And finally, the 2020 Summer Olympics will be held in Tokyo, and so we will hold special marketing events and activities to make sure Masumi Sake is part of the fun of these games.

Q: What are the current annual sales of Masumi Sake in terms of volume and value (in US dollars)?

A: For the brewing year ending September 2018
sales volume was 1500 KL; sales value reached US$14 million.

Keith Norum

Q: Are there are misconceptions about Sake in Europe and the USA that it is important to correct?

A: Misconception #1: sake is strong distilled alcohol, like vodka.
Truth #1: sake is moderate fermented alcohol, like wine.
Misconception #2: sake has to be drunk hot.
Truth #2: sake can be enjoyed chilled or warm.
Misconception #3: sake improves with age, like wine.
Truth #3: sake degrades with age; drink it soon after you get it.
Misconception #4: sake only goes with Japanese food like sushi.
Truth #4: sake goes well with food from all over the world.

Q: What is Masumi doing to improve awareness of sake in the United States and Europe?

A: Providing our importers with detailed and updated information on our products and all aspects of sake production and culture. Visiting importers and customers in these markets frequently for sales and educational activities.

Q: What is the opinion of consumers in the US and Europe towards drinking sake?

A: Consumers in North America are currently more aware of sake and more likely to drink it than in Europe. However, European consumers are showing greater interest and consumption is growing, primarily in urban markets. I am happy to say that the general opinion of sake has completely flipped from “hot and nasty” thirty years ago to “cool, aromatic, and delightful” today, thanks to the fact that more well-made premium products are becoming available.

Q: What success has Masumi Sake enjoyed in educating Western consumers?

A: We have invested a great deal in providing information and education about our products and about sake in general. We are happy to say that this effort seems to be paying off, as our brand enjoys strong recognition within our primary HORECA channels. We can also see the benefits in the increasing numbers of professionals who are making the trip to Japan to visit and learn directly from us. We also are pleased to see our brand gaining recognition within the growing number of professional sake education programmes in English, such as WSET’s Level 3 Award in Sake.

Q: Can you give an example of a Masumi Sake educational programme?

A: While we do not offer a formal program, we frequently conduct staff trainings at restaurants worldwide, and often hold seminars at drinks exhibitions like Vinexpo, Prowein, and so on. Naturally, we are constantly developing new presentations, videos, and web-based training tools in conjunction with this effort.

Q: How much investment is being put behind Masumi promotion worldwide?

A: It is hard to put a figure on this, as we rarely spend on direct advertising or other marketing vehicles overseas. Most of our investment is “hands on”, by travelling frequently overseas to exhibit at shows, and to promote our products directly alongside our distributors in each market.

Q: What are your best-performing markets in Asia?

A: They are: 1. Hong Kong 2. Bangkok 3. Taipei

Q: What are your best-performing markets in North America and Europe?

A: In North America they are: 1 New York City 2. San Francisc 2. Toronto

In Europe they are: 1. Copenhagen 2. London 3. Stockholm

Company profile: Masumi Sake has weathered turbulent times since the 17th century to become Japan’s leading premium sake brewer.
Today the family-owned company’s range of products spans shochu and liqueurs as well as super premium, premium and standard brands of sake.