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The History of Kirin Redefining Beer Business Strategy and Spinning Off Soft Drink Business(1987-1996)

The Japanese beer market went through several changes in the 1980s. As consumers were enjoying diverse value orientations and lifestyles choices, they became more selective in deciding which beer to buy after they walked into a store, and an increasing number of people chose canned beers. Draft beer, which is not pasteurized, saw a continuous increase in popularity among beer drinkers. After beer companies fought in the early 1980s "the battle of containers," in which they brought out new beer products in a variety of specially designed containers, they changed gears to offer a broad assortment of distinctive beer products—each differentiated by taste, not by container. To attract a broad range of customers, Kirin Brewery introduced Kirin Light Beer in 1980, followed by Kirin Can Nama draft beer in cans (1983) and Kirin Bin Nama draft beer in bottles (1985).

The moment of truth for Kirin Brewery came when Asahi Breweries introduced the game-changing Asahi Super Dry in 1987 with resounding success. Faced with a declining market share, Kirin Brewery redefined its beer business strategy. First, the company changed the name of its flagship beer from Kirin Beer to Kirin Lager Beer, which better described and communicated what it really was. Second, the company broadened and deepened its offerings of beer products to meet consumers' diverse taste preferences for beer. In 1990, the company introduced with much fanfare Kirin Ichiban Shibori, which was made from the first strain of malt liquid in the first-press brewing process. Kirin Ichiban Shibori turned out to be one of the most successful new beer products that Kirin Brewery had ever had, achieving record sales in the first year of launch.

Kirin Brewery's soft drink division merged with Kirin Lemon Co., Ltd. to become Kirin Beverage Co., Ltd. in January 1991. Immediately after its inception, Kirin Beverage co-established Kirin Tropicana Inc. with Tropicana Products, Inc., which had a dominant share in the U.S. chilled orange juice market. It laid the groundwork for the company's business expansion.

Kirin Ichiban Shibori from 1990
Inauguration ceremony of Kirin Beverage in 1991

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© 2007 Kirin Holdings Company, Limited.

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