Features Philippines Food

Kirin starts pouring premium draft beer in Philippines as alcohol consumption grows

17, Oct. 2019

An employee is learning how to pour draft beer into a glass at Ogawa, an upscale Japanese restaurant in Taguig City, on Sept. 23, 2019.
An employee is learning how to pour draft beer into a glass at Ogawa, an upscale Japanese restaurant in Taguig City, on Sept. 23, 2019.

By Darlene Basingan

MANILA, NNA – Japanese brewer Kirin Holdings Co. is promoting draft beer at restaurants in metropolitan Manila to improve sales and raise brand awareness amid growing alcohol consumption in a Southeast Asian country where consumers normally drink from cans and bottles.

The Kirin Ichiban Shibori brand draft beer went on sale last month at seven upscale Japanese restaurants in the metro Manila cities of Makati and Taguig, said Daiki Sato, senior consultant of sales and marketing at Kirin’s Philippine affiliate San Miguel Brewery.

A growing Philippine economy, rising incomes and the young population are driving growth in beer consumption in the Philippines, Sato told NNA in a recent interview. Some bars and restaurants especially in metro Manila have begun serving draft beers, he said.

“The main objective of this launch is not for the increase in volume, it’s for the branding,” Sato said. “We really want to strengthen the brand presence of Kirin Ichiban in the Philippines using this draft beer.”

The premium segment makes up less than 1 percent in the Philippine beer market, which is dominated by bottled and canned beers, Sato said.

But industry trade group International Wine and Spirits Research forecast in July that Filipinos drink 900 million liters of beer per year. The group expects the Southeast Asian country to contribute 1.2 percent to the global alcohol market in 2020 and 1.4 percent in 2023.

Sato believes the number of draft beer drinkers to be increasing among wealthier Filipinos as well as resident Japanese, Koreans, Chinese, Europeans and Americans.

“I thought it might be good timing to launch Japanese quality draft beer because most of those target customers have been to Japan, and they have already experienced the draft beer in Japan,” he said.

Premium draft beers are roughly priced at around 180 to 200 pesos ($3.5 to $3.9) per pint.

While a number of liquor companies have already introduced draft beer here, Kirin is trying to differentiate itself by adopting small-capacity barrels to maintain freshness. It will offer Kirin Ichiban Shibori from a relatively small 10-liter barrel.

Filipino drinking habits are starting to change partly because of the country’s emerging craft beer market, said Jun Flores, president of the 70-member trade group Craft Beer Association of the Philippines.

“Most of our brewers, they actually prefer (serving their beer) on draft…because it will be less expensive than bottled ones,” said Flores. Industrial brewers such as San Miguel and Heineken now sell drafts too, he said. “It has more volume, (and) easy to manage,” he said.

San Miguel Brewery Inc., a subsidiary of Philippine food giant San Miguel Corp., has distributed Kirin’s bottled and canned beers in the country since 2003. Kirin has a 48.6 percent stake in the local unit.

In 2018, Kirin rebranded its beer to “Shin Kirin Ichiban Shibori.” The Japanese brewer said the rebranding helped increase sales of beer brand by 70 percent from January to August this year compared to the same period last year, according to Sato.