Asahi Group overtook Kirin in 2001 to recapture the title of Japan's leading brewer for the first time in almost 50 years. It has more or less maintained that lead since then, although the two companies remain fiercely competitive, especially in the increasingly dominant "beer-alike" sectors. The company's flagship brand is Asahi Super Dry, the #1 beer in Japan by a considerable margin and one of the world's biggest by volume. The launch of that brand in 1985 saved Asahi from near-collapse, and its growth over the next two decades was dramatic. Yet the domestic beer market has changed beyond recognition as a result of the introduction in the 1990s of low-priced beverages which resemble beer but, for tax reasons, contain low or no malt. These happoshu and so-called "new genre" drinks now account for almost half the beer market. As a result, Asahi began restructuring in 2002 to develop a broader portfolio that includes wines, spirits and flavoured alcoholic beverages. The Asahi brand is used on a variety of full-malt beers, while Honnama is the banner for several low-malt happoshu. Clear Asahi is its biggest brand in the "new genre" no-malt segment. The group had a leading 37% share of the local "beer-type" market in 2018, and almost 49% of full-malt beer. It is also active in the sho-chu and chu-hi flavoured alcohol segments. Nikka whisky is its leading spirits brand, and the group also handles local distribution for Remy Martin, Absolut, Cointreau and other brands. Asahi Soft Drinks is the local #3 in that sector with Calpis, Mitsuya Cider, Wonda canned coffee, Asahi Jurokucha blended tea, Wilkinson and other mineral waters. Other sidelines include Mintia breath mints, baby foods and Ebios health supplements.
However, with the Japanese market either flat or declining, Asahi has pushed aggressively in recent years into international beer. It has established a strong presence in China and Australia, and more recently Europe, where it snapped up SABMiller's Peroni, Grolsch, Pilsner Urquell, Tyskie and other beers; and then the UK's Fuller's, makers of London Pride, ESB and other ales and Frontier lager. That was followed by a separate deal to acquire another former SABMiller subsidiary, Carlton & United Breweries in Australia (where Asahi already owned Schweppes and other soft drinks). As a result of that expansion, more than half of group employees are now based outside Japan. The group's corporate HQ is one of the most recognisable landmarks of the Tokyo skyline. The main building is designed to resemble a golden glass of beer with a white frothy head, while the "Super Dry Hall" next door is topped by a gigantic modernist golden flame designed by Philippe Starck. Akiyoshi Koji is CEO. For 2018, revenues hit record highs in local currency, equivalent to approx $19.2bn with net income of $1.4bn. Alcoholic beverages accounted for 69% of global revenues and soft drinks for 25%. International operations contributed a third of revenues, with all the rest from the domestic Japanese market.
Capsule checked 16th December 2019
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Who are the competitors of Asahi Group? Asahi's principal rivals in Japan's alcohol market are Kirin, Suntory and Sapporo. It also competes with Coca-Cola, Suntory, Ito En and Kirin in soft drinks. See Wine Beer & Spirits Sector and Soft Drinks Sector for other companies
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Adbrands Daily Update 19th Jul 2019: Just a few days after the collapse of plans to issue an IPO of its Asia Pacific assets, AB InBev announced the sale of Australian arm Carlton & United Breweries to Asahi Breweries. It includes all CUB's own brands as well as local rights to the AB InBev import portfolio. A price tag of US $11.3bn makes this Asahi's biggest ever international purchase. It follows the acquisition of another chunk of what was once SABMiller two years ago: Peroni, Grolsch and Urquell in Europe. It will also mean that both of Australia's two dominant brewers are Japanese-owned. (Kirin already owns CUB's main rival Lion). AB InBev may also divest other parts of its APAC division; or may attempt to restart an IPO for the smaller business.
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Adbrands Daily Update 25th Jan 2019: Asahi strengthened its portfolio of European beer assets with a surprise deal to acquire the drinks business of London-based Fuller, Smith & Turner for £250m. Fuller's was one of the UK's last remaining sizeable independent breweries. Flagship of the business is London Pride ale, supported by Fuller's, Frontier lager and others, all produced in West London. Also included in the purchase are Fuller's Cornish Orchard cider, wine wholesaler Nectar Imports and a small soft drinks division. Fuller's will instead focus its attentions instead on its pubs and hotels business.
Adbrands Weekly Update 15th Nov 2018: Ads Of The Week: "Enter Asahi". Trust Australia's finest, The Monkeys, to shake up the beer market. For Asahi Super Dry, that Accenture-owned creative hothouse has concocted a spellbinding mash-up of cool Japanese cultural references - cool being the operative word; nothing kawaii here - to remind us of the splendours of that country's top-selling brew. Australia once produced some of the world's finest beer advertising before running foul of regulatory concerns about condoning alcohol. Could this be the beginning of a re-birth? As they say at the end of every Japanese beer ad following a great big gulp: "Kkkaaahhhhhh!"
Adbrands Weekly Update 15th Dec 2016: Asahi Breweries of Japan is doubling down on Europe, having agreed a new deal to acquire SABMiller's remaining brands in the region for €7.3bn. It has already acquired SABMiller's Grolsch and Peroni; the new acquisition covers a collection of Central & Eastern European beers including Urquell from the Czech Republic, Hungary's Dreher and Poland's Tyskie and Lech. SABMiller's new owner AB InBev had agreed to sell the brands to appease regulatory concerns. However, the price tag paid by Asahi is significantly higher than anticipated because of stiff competition from rival private equity bidders. Following completion, the Japanese company will become Europe's third largest brewer after AB InBev and Heineken.
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