The Iroiro site features an article by Maki Nagasawa featuring a new packaging style for sake - in an iced coffee-style cup with a lid, and meant to be drunk with a straw. But will the youngsters go for it?
(This isn't an April Fool, by the way - I saw these when I visited Japan in November 2017!)
The product is sold by mega-brewery Kizakura, and called the "Junmaishu Cup". The contents are a slightly sweet junmai made from 100% Yamada Nishiki sake-specific rice. You get no prize for guessing that the new style of packaging with it's easy-to-drink straw is meant to appeal to the ladies. The light paper cup also makes it easy to carry and drink casually outdoors - perfect for spring according to Nagasawa.
Comments - not attributed to anyone - include "it's too cute", "you can drink it anywhere and it won't spill even if you drop it", "the idea of a genius" (really?), "the kind of thing I'd buy on the way home from a business trip", "you could put it in a cup holder and drink it anywhere" (note this doesn't apply to driving as zero drinking is allowed when driving in Japan), and "you could drink it like a cafe latte when having a picnic". (I feel like I should be congratulating somebody's marketing department.)
According to Kizakura, they had the idea of putting junmai sake in a cup after the success of another paper-cup product, sakekasu amazake. The paper cup-packaged amazake was launched in spring 2016, and they noticed that a high proportion of consumers were women. Some commented that they didn't like drinking directly from the container, so Kizakura added a straw and sales took off.
Thinking that the same change in approach could also work for sake, Kizakura launched a stylish, female-oriented paper cup with a straw in spring 2017. They also did all they could to ensure it would be taken up by young women who like sake. They hired a female designer to make sure that they got a soft style that would attract women. The sake inside was originally planned to be kept at its original 15-16% abv, but they eventually made it 14% and slightly sweet so it was easy to drink.
The idea didn't go over smoothly with all of their business contacts, but Kizakura had been selling sake in "brick packs" (juice-style plastic-coated cardboard boxes) for over 30 years so they knew that people would drink sake through a straw. The target market this time was different, but one that was used to drinking cold coffee drinks through straws. They also produced a kōji amazake (zero alcohol) in the same packaging.
Another unattributed comment was that the packaging looked like it would get you drunk quickly, but Kizakura pointed out the straw limited how much you could drink at much, so there wasn't much risk of unthinkingly chugging the 180 ml all at once. They hope the new packaging will attract people who aren't currently interested in sake, and that their paper cup amazake drinks will be convenient enough to grab during a work break.
- Original article (Japanese, Iroiro, 1 April 2018) Click through for images of the iced-coffee style cup and retail displays with sketch-style illustration of trendy, happy young woman. The big red lettering at the bottom says "This is alcohol".