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The PET bottle has emerged as the preferred packaging for drinks among Japanese millennials due to its ease of use and eco-friendly nature. Against this backdrop, beverage giant Suntory Beverage & Food Limited (SBF) is looking to capitalize on the growing popularity of this packaging format to drive ready-to-drink (RTD) coffee sales amid a shrinking RTD market in Japan, says GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company.

According to the company’s report: Success Case Study: Suntory Craft Boss – Craft-style ready-to-drink coffee resonates with Japan’s Millennials, Japan is the largest RTD coffee market in the world, selling 3,574 million liters in 2017. However, the market volume growth in Japan has been slow in recent years and is expected to decline at a compound annual growth rate of -0.89 % between 2017 and 2022. On the other hand, GlobalData’s Market Analyzer reveals that the percentage of sales of PET bottled RTD tea & coffee has increased by 2.81 % from 6,659.30 million liters in 2017 to 6,851.58 million liters in 2018.

Suntory launched Craft Boss, a new range of RTD coffee under the Suntory Boss brand, in April 2017. The Craft Boss range is sold in PET bottles rather than metal cans to offer new consumption experience to millennial consumers.

Shagun Sachdeva, Consumer Insights Analyst at GlobalData, says: “The company’s move to launch craft-style coffee drinks in a PET bottle format is part of strategic product positioning to tap new consumer groups, particularly millennials. This clearly demonstrates that it has understood the importance of innovation in terms of appeal and packaging format, in line with the demographic changes in Japan.”

Craft Boss PET bottled coffee series crossed 27 million cases in 2018. It was the biggest driver of Boss coffee sales, which crossed 100 million cases last year. The success of this series helped Suntory compensate decline in other products, with a very strong growth of 8 million cases in 2018 compared to the previous year.

Sachdeva concludes: “Suntory is one of the first major manufacturers to react to the slow market growth of RTD coffee in Japan. The company has quickly identified the market gap and is catering to the evolving demands of the white-collar millennials to take advantage of the appealing market segment. Simply put, the company used incremental innovation and customer-centric strategy to gain a clear, competitive edge over rivals.”

From dating through apps and online shopping to working from home, it seems Millennials prefer to do nearly everything from the comfort of their couch—and now socializing is best done from home for this generation, as well. New research from Mintel reveals that almost three in ten (28 %) Younger Millennials (aged 24-31) drink at home because they believe ‘it takes too much effort to go out.’

But while going out is proving to be too much effort for young Americans, the country’s older consumers are willing to make the time as just 15 % of Baby Boomers (aged 54-72) agree it takes too much effort to drink away from home.

Overall, more than half (55 %) of American consumers prefer drinking at home. In fact, it seems the at-home drinking trend is catching on as on-premise alcohol drinkers are more likely to say they are drinking alcoholic beverages away from home less often (18 %) in 2018 than they did a year ago, than to say they are drinking away from home more often (15 %), with Younger Millennials most likely to agree (29 % drinking away from home less vs 17 % more). In addition to being perceived as more relaxing (74 %), cheaper (69 %) and personal (35 %), nearly two in five (38 %) in-home drinkers are choosing to drink at home in order to better control their alcohol intake.

“While Americans enjoy going out for a drink now and then, our research shows that the majority of consumers say they prefer drinking at home. Today, Millennials are currently leading the way when it comes to socializing in the home, but the preference for at-home drinking will likely be even greater among the up-and-coming iGeneration, who are generally regarded as more frugal and pragmatic than Millennials. Bars and restaurants must work harder than ever to provide customers with a unique drinking experience. For example, an ‘Instagramable’ pop culture pop-up bar offers an experience that can’t be replicated from consumers’ living rooms,” said Caleb Bryant, Senior Foodservice Analyst at Mintel.

Premiumization boosts sales; wine grows on menus

On-premise alcohol sales continue to rise, reaching an estimated $108 billion in 2017. But it seems less is more for consumers when it comes to ‘trading up’ for pricier drinks as on-premise alcohol volume consumption has fallen year-over-year. On-premise alcohol consumption is estimated to fall to 17.8 liters per capita in 2017, compared to an average of 20.9 liters in 2010, according to Mintel Market Sizes.

Where consumers are drinking is also changing as traditional bars have seen a drop in visitation. Overall, those who drink alcoholic beverages away from home are more likely to say they’re visiting drink-focused venues less often compared to a year ago. This includes bars in general (20 % less vs 10 % more), nightclubs (17 % less vs 7 % more) and sports bars (17 % less vs 10 % more).

Meanwhile, venues that offer more unique experiences are winning over consumers as many who drink away from home say they are visiting breweries (19 %), entertainment venues (14 %) and independent restaurants (13 %) more often in 2018. What’s more, trying out new drinks (49 %) is the number one reason why those who are drinking away from home more often say they are doing so and 22 % agree that more bars should offer activities such as trivia and darts.

Restaurants and bars are helping consumers get more adventurous with their drink choices through new, innovative offerings. According to Mintel Menu Insights, the amount of cocktails on menus across the US increased 15 % between Q4 2015-Q4 2017, with wine in particular presenting an opportunity as a versatile cocktail ingredient. Wine is by far and away the most common alcoholic beverage on menus, representing 39 % of all alcoholic beverages offered on menus today, and is now more often being used in cocktails. In fact, the inclusion of wine in cocktails showed the strongest growth of any alcohol type in the last two years, growing 20 % between Q4 2015-Q4 2017.

“Despite falling volume consumption, total on-premise alcohol sales are rising, indicating that while consumers are drinking less, they are trading up for more expensive drinks. Our research shows that consumers are ordering imported and craft beer over light beer, and premium spirits are growing more popular than value spirits. Looking ahead, drink variety will build consumer excitement at bars and restaurants, while currently trendy drinks such as sparkling wine and rosé will continue to be a popular option for both special and casual drinking occasions. Millennials enjoy experimenting with new drinks on-premise, with this adventurous behavior indicating an opportunity for foodservice retailers to innovate their drink menus and create better experiences to further encourage consumers to drink more away from home,” concluded Bryant.