Alongside our daily news coverage, features and interviews, the Just Drinks news team sifts through the week’s most intriguing data sets to bring you a roundup of the week in numbers.

This week, we took a look at Kirin Holding’s Japan beer sales as the group readies for 2026 tax reforms, looked at Nestlé’s volumes after a dip in 2023 and delved into global consumption of alcohol and non-alcoholic beers.

Kirin Holdings eyes growth in Japan beer division

Kirin Holdings’ beer and spirits division in Japan grew the fastest in fours years in revenue terms in 2023 but beer lagged behind spirits.

While overall beer and spirits revenue grew 3.2% in 2023 compared to 2022, its beer division, Kirin Brewery, grew slightly slower at 2%.

This week the group said it would focus its marketing efforts on Japan beer sales in the coming year ahead of a change in alcohol tax in the country set for 2026.

Speaking to analysts after the group’s full-year 2023 results, Kirin Holdings president and CEO Yoshinori Isozaki said “competition will intensify” in Japan’s beer market in the run-up.

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“In such a situation, it is important how we promote our brand strategy, so we plan to strengthen rather than loosen our marketing investment,” he said.

Reforms, to be introduced piecemeal by 2026, include a lower tax rate on regular beer and a rise for so-called “third beer”, which contains no malt.

Asked about the longevity of marketing spend, and whether it would continue in 2025 and 2026, Isozaki said: “It is difficult to say how much marketing expenses will increase or decrease, as it depends on future trends, but rather than reducing them, we are supposed to continue to strengthen.

“As for the competition for 2026, the key to success in 2026 will be how much we can win in the beer category, given that the pure beer category has expanded more than expected since the October 2023 liquor tax revision.”

Eastern, Central Europe lead world’s largest alcohol consumers

People in Romania, Georgia and Czechia consume the largest quantity of alcohol per capita in the world, data shows.

Romania’s LPA (litres of pure alcohol) per capita has declined slightly over the past 20 years but the country has held pole position since 2000, according to data from the World Health Organisation.

This week, Japan published its first official guidance for alcohol consumption, with the aim of reducing unhealthy drinking behaviours.

In its initial drafted advice, published last December, the ministry recommended a daily limit of 40g of alcohol for men and 20g for women.

The latest ‘Guidelines for Healthy Drinking’ focuses on the amount of pure alcohol that is likely to increase the risk of developing lifestyle-linked diseases.

According to the WHO, the average person in Japan drank 6.7 LPA in 2019, matching 2015 consumption levels but down from 7.7 LPA in 2000.

Nestlé’s volumes soften amid private-label competition

Nestlé’s attention in 2024 is on restoring volumes after a key performance metric turned negative last year, reflecting “softness” in consumer demand.

The Swiss giant failed to return real internal growth (RIG) to positive territory in the back half of 2023, as was envisaged by CEO Mark Schneider and his finance counterpart François-Xavier Roger.

Roger had anticipated in September an increase in advertising and promotional spending would help Nestlé achieve that objective but he admitted today (22 February) that trading down into private label had been a barrier.

Meanwhile, this week French consumer watchdog Foodwatch filed a complaint with a Paris court against Nestlé for “illegally” treating the bottled mineral water they sell in France.

The Vittel owner said it was assessing “operating practices” within its packaged water division across several markets amid the scrutiny.

Foodwatch said Nestlé and a second bottled-water company – Sources Alma – “illegally treated their bottled waters and then sold [the products] without informing consumers”.

Germany continues streak as world’s largest consumer of non-alc beer in 2023

Germany drank three times more non-alcoholic beer than Japan, the world’s second-largest country by volume, in 2023, data shows.

In 2023, Germany drank 10.9m hectolitres of non-alcoholic beer, while Japan drunk 3m hectolitres, Spain 2.1m hectoliters and the US 1.6m hectolitres.

Germany has led the pack since at least 2018, according to analysis from GlobalData, Just Drinks' parent company,

This week Just Drinks spoke to producers in Japan about the potential for the category domestically.

Japan's 2023 consumption volumes (3m hectolitres) represented growth of more than 20% since 2018 (that compares to 47.7m hectolitres of beer last year).

The growth of non-alcoholic beer in Japan comes against the backdrop of declining alcohol consumption in the country. GlobalData research shows that, between 2019 and 2023, beer and cider intake consumption nearly 12%.

Long read: Japan’s brewers have home advantage in alcohol-free