It’s always interesting to get some news from inside the sake industry, which is just what I found when I came across the “e-Academy” section of the Kita Sangyo site – the company supplies containers and closures for the drinks industry in Japan.

In their latest “Sake Statistics” PDF, they look at several changes over the last 30 years in the sake world, including the number of companies making sake overseas.

What’s particularly interesting about the chart in the top half of Fig. 1 is that it tracks not only the number of companies brewing sake outside Japan over the last 30 years but also their type – whether they’re “factories” or “craft” breweries.

The chart shows no change between 1989 and 1991, with just 10 “factories” operating overseas – five sites in the USA owned by four companies, three in Korea and two in Brazil. The number crept up by one in 1992, then to 15 in 1994 and 19 in 1995 – all “factory” sites.

The number of these sake production sites fluctuated between 19 and 23 from 1997 to 2007, when the first “craft” sake breweries started to appear. “Craft” sites went from just one in 2007 to three in 2008, then four in 2010 and eight in 2011. The number kept rising slowly, with nine in 2013 and 11 in 2014, before the number of craft sake breweries started taking off while the number of “factory” sites stayed more or less static.

  • 2015: 27 large, 18 small (total 45)
  • 2016: 27 large, 22 small (total 49)
  • 2017: 27 large, 27 small (total 54)
  • 2018: 27 large, 30 small (total 57)
  • 2019: 28 large, 33 small (total 61)

The bottom part of the graph shows another shift – from overseas sake breweries being located mainly in the USA to other countries. Half of the “factory” breweries were in the USA between 1989 and 1994, but after that the number of breweries in the USA stayed between five and nine until 2013, while the number of breweries outside the USA went from 10 to 25.

  • 2014: 11 in the USA, 25 outside (total 36)
  • 2015: 17 in the USA, 28 outside (total 45)
  • 2016: 17 in the USA, 32 outside (total 49)
  • 2017: 19 in the USA, 35 outside (total 54)
  • 2018: 22 in the USA, 35 outside (total 57)
  • 2019: 24 in the USA, 37 outside (total 61)

A note at the bottom of the table states that “factories” include sites known to be producing sake where there wasn’t enough information about the company or where there’s a possibility the company wasn’t producing sake by legitimate or orthodox methods (e.g. synthetic products). There wasn’t enough information about China or Brazil, so there may be more “factory” sites than listed. Some Chinese and Korean companies ceased operating between around 1995 and 2000 but it’s not clear when, so those figures may be off by 1 or 2 companies.

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The translations/summaries of Japanese language news articles and other content provided on this site are part of a personal project to increase the amount of information about Japanese sake available in English.

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