Raw Japan

Slices of Japanese business, politics and life

Cheap brews soothe econ blues


Cheap beer-like drinks are in fashion as suds lovers try to hold onto their daily treat while saving money to ride out tough economic times. Sales of these drinks have been very strong and beer makers are aggressively marketing their products, all of which is just going to further dent the market share of beer, which has been in steady decline for years.

Nowadays, a 350ml can of regular beer will set you back about 210 yen ($2.20) in Japan, while low-malt ”beer-like drinks” go for around 130 yen. 

Under Japan’s tax code, beer is defined as having a malt content of two-thirds or more of the raw material and carries a liquor tax of 77 yen per 350ml can. The tax on the new drinks is only 28 yen, since they use no malt. Instead the beer makers use pea protein or other materials to create a beer-like taste.


Total shipments of malt-free drinks jumped 30 percent in June, industry data showed, while those of beer were almost flat.  Today, malt-free drinks account for nearly 30 percent of what used to be the beer market.