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The Mainichi Newspaper has an article about a stylish sake tasting set on sale in an unusual place – variety shops.

In a slightly different vision of doom to the usual sake article (focusing on sake being seen as “uncool” and young people giving up drinking alcohol), the article mentions how food producers are struggling to find new markets amid the decline in population and corresponding fall in domestic demand.

Major food company Maruha Nichiro has teamed up with publisher Takarajima to launch a range of condiments such as cream sauce and jam in Nordic-themed containers based on Takarajima’s Kippis brand. [If you’ve ever been in a Japanese book shop, they put out magazines that come with bags, or bags that come with magazines, it’s not entirely clear.] The patterns, by a Finnish designer, include floral and polar bear motifs and the condiments will be sold in shops like Plaza. [I’m not sure how to describe these shops – they sell lots of accessories and bits and pieces, usually things you never realised you needed.] The stylish-but-cute containers are designed to be photography and social-media friendly, and can be kept and used for storage. They’re designed to appeal to young women, for example as gifts for friends.

Maruha Nichiro commented that it doesn’t anticipate much increase in demand for existing products such as canned foods from the low-birthrate, rapidly-ageing society. They aim to reach new markets by selling through non-traditional routes such as variety shops.

The Yonetsuru sake brewery based in Takahata, Yamagata Prefecture has been selling a sake tasting set since 2014. Although the company is over 300 years old, it’s not well known in its own prefecture and has found it hard to increase sales. They decided to try to break out of their existing market by designing completely new products, enlisting a Tokyo-based designer to develop a tasting set. The stylish package is aimed at women and those new to sake.

They sold mostly online at first, with around 1,800 sets sold in the first year. Then in 2015 they were stocked in the Loft department store and sales jumped to 3,500 sets. Company president Umezu noted that the tasting set was also popular with foreigners and that Loft gave them a great opportunity to become more widely known.

The tasting sets have five 100 ml bottles of different sake for JPY 3,000, or five 180 ml bottles for JPY 5,000. The photo (and Amazon listing) also shows a wooden tray with an ochoko.