Sapporo is the smallest of Japan's big four brewers, with 11% market share in 2018. Yet it is also the oldest Japanese beer, first brewed in 1876 in the city in northern Japan after which it takes its name. It was also the first to establish a reputation outside its domestic market, entering the US market for the first time in the 1960s, and gaining a reputation among Western clubbers and style leaders in the 1980s as a result of its unusual ridged can. Sapporo Premium is still the top-selling Japanese beer in the US, a position it has enjoyed for more than 30 years. For most of the first half of the 20th century it was part of the Dai-Nippon Beer conglomerate alongside what is now Asahi Breweries, until being split off in 1949. In its domestic market, Sapporo sought to shake up tradition with the development of new low cost "beeralike" products, which have dominated Japan's beer market since the late 1990s. The company broke new ground in 2004 with the invention of the so-called "third category" or "new genre" almost-beers, made from fermented pea protein. Key beer and related brands are flagship brands Sapporo and Yebisu, low-malt happoshu Mugi to Hop and new genre Goku Zero. Like its competitors it also markets soft drinks (including Pokka Lemon and Soyafarm soy milk), imports wine and spirits (including Penfolds, Yellow Tail and Bacardi) and has interests in other sectors including packaged foods, real estate development and bars, beer halls and restaurants in Japan. In North America, it acquired Canadian brewer Sleeman - the local #3 after AB InBev and Molson - in 2006, San Francisco's Anchor Steam Beer in 2017, and Canada's Wild Rose Brewery in 2019. It also owns US soft drinks manufacturer Silver Springs Citrus and private label juice maker Country Pure. Group revenues for 2020 were approx $4.1bn (Y435bn), of which just under half was generated by Japanese beer and related alcoholic beverages. Masaki Oga is CEO of Sapporo Holdings; Hiroyuki Nose is CEO of the core Sapporo Group business in Japan.
Capsule checked 9th August 2021
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Who are the competitors of Sapporo? Japan's big four brewers are Asahi (37% local share in 2018), Kirin (34%), Suntory (16%) and Sapporo. However, volumes have been falling steadily for more than a decade, reaching a new low of 394m cases in 2018, according to the Brewers Association of Japan. Beer and happoshu volumes were both down (to 194m cases and 50m cases respectively), while new genre products rose to 150m cases. See Beer Sector index for other companies
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