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 Mitsuya Cider (not a cider despite its name), Calpis, 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, Kozel, Grolsch, Pilsner Urquell and other beers; and then the UK's Fuller's, makers of London Pride, ESB and other ales as well as 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, almost 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. Atsushi Katsuki succeeded Akiyoshi Koji as CEO in 2021. For 2020, revenues slipped slightly to approx $19.0bn (Y2.03tn), but net profit slumped by a third to approx $868m. Alcoholic beverages account for around 68% of global revenues and soft drinks for 25%. International operations contributed 39% of revenues, with all the rest from the domestic Japanese market.
Capsule checked 20th July 2021
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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
Historical profile information for Asahi Group
Adbrands Daily Update 9th Sep 2021: British craft brewer BrewDog has forged a partnership with Asahi Breweries to distribute its products in the Japanese market. However, the fast-expanding company said it has no plans to sell to Asahi or any other international brewer. Instead it has begun develop plans for an IPO, possibly next year.
Adbrands Daily Update 9th Sep 2020: UK full-service start-up Trouble Maker lived up to its name by capturing the international media account for Asahi Breweries from WPP's Wavemaker. The business was founded earlier this year by four senior managers formerly of digital agency Holler (sold to Leo Burnett London in 2014) and later of Exposure. It launched with a brief to develop creative for Asahi's Peroni brand across Europe. Trouble Maker has now added media for Peroni across 20 international markets in EMEA and Latin America, as well as for Asahi Super Dry, Grolsch, Kozel, Pilsner Urquell and Fuller's London Pride. The wide-ranging brief covers media planning and buying, social, partnerships as well as other services. Trouble Maker will work with international agency collective Local Planet to coordinate local activities in markets where it isn't present.
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.
Adbrands Social Media 5th Mar 2019: "Schweppervescence". Ads for Schweppes don't come along very often but - in Australia at least - when they do, they tend to be technically astonishing. TBWA now manages the world-famous mixer Down Under, where it is owned by Asahi Breweries. This new campaign follows in the footsteps of a series of justly famous ads created in the 2000s by what was then GPY&R. It sort of lacks those spots' more visible human element, but makes up for that in digital wizardry.
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.
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