USA: Japanese brewer Sapporo to build a brewery on the west coast

Sapporo Breweries Ltd, fourth-largest beer maker in Japan and maker of the number one selling Asian beer brand in the United States Sapporo Premium, is planning to build a new brewery in the USA by the end of 2024.

“I would like to have a production base on the west coast,” Hiroyuki Nose, Sapporo Breweries’ vice president of marketing, said in a Bloomberg interview. “We make and import most of it from Canada and there are logistical costs. This is a challenge for us.” The company has so far not been able to scale up its brewing activities in North America, its largest overseas market.

Mr. Nose who is set to become president of Sapporo Breweries at the end of this month said that Sapporo plans to increase sales of Sapporo Premium in North America by 20% this year after recovering from the COVID 19 pandemic. Having an own production would not only save costs but would also help to be closer to the consumer.

Besides building an own brewery, other options include acquiring an existing brewery or expanding contract manufacturing in the US. The manager did not disclose any details about the size of the brewery or the amount of investment.

The Tokyo-based beverage maker has been importing beer to the US since 1964 and has become a popular offering at restaurants. Sapporo U.S.A was established in 1984 and since then Sapporo Premium has been the #1 selling Asian beer in the United States. The company already owns the Sleeman Brewery in Guelph, Ontario, Canada, and Sapporo Brewing Company in La Crosse, Wisconsin, U.S. In 2017, Sapporo purchased California-based craft beer maker Anchor Brewing, San Francisco, California. (, 4.8.2017).

Main brands on an international scale are Sapporo Draft (called Sapporo Premium in North America); Yebisu; and Sleeman Cream Ale. In the US the Sapporo brand family includes Sapporo Premium, Sapporo Premium Black, Sapporo Premium Light and Sapporo Reserve.

Last week the brewer released its first new beer in the United States in almost five years. Sapporo Pure is a new light lager with only 90 calories, 2.4g carbs and 4.0% ABV. “More and more consumers are taking a balanced approach in their choices in alcoholic beverages and we wanted to meet that expectation with an exceptional light beer” said Scott Pederson, Senior Vice President, Marketing, Sapporo U.S.A. “With Sapporo continuing to grow in popularity, Pure is a natural extension of our portfolio.” The product is available in a distinctly designed 12 oz. slim can and available in 6-packs, rolling out to 17 states across the U.S. beginning this month, including Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Nevada, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, and Washington.

The origins of Sapporo Breweries are in Sapporo, Hokkaido, Japan during in the second half of the 19th century, where the Hokkaido Development Commission established many businesses. Seibei Nakagawa, a German-trained brewer, became the first brewmaster of the Kaitakushi Brewery in June 1876, and the first Sapporo Lager was produced at that time.

Privatized in 1886, the Sapporo brewery became the centerpiece for the Sapporo Beer Company. In 1887, another company, the Japan Beer Brewery Company was established in Mita, Meguro, Tokyo, and began producing Yebisu Beer. The competition between Sapporo and Japan Beer, as well as competition with the Osaka (now Asahi) and Kirin breweries led to a 1906 merger of Sapporo, Japan, and Osaka breweries into the Dai-Nippon Beer Company, Ltd., which formed a near monopoly on the Japanese market until after World War II.After 1949, Dai-Nippon was split into Nippon and Asahi breweries, with the Nippon Breweries resuming production of Sapporo beer in 1956 and renaming itself to the present name, Sapporo Breweries, in 1964.

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