Continuing our series on how local businesses have coped with the lockdown, we have a report from one of our Partners, Sake Lovers. The company is organizing regular online sake tasting events that feature small craft breweries around the country. The company is derived from the online community of sake aficionados, Washukai, which has more than 1,000 members.
Sake Lovers owner Kyoko Nagano shares her experience of taking online the alcoholic drink made of fermented rice also known as nihonshu:
More Than Just Selling Sake
Sake Lovers is proud to be specialized in the Japanese national drink. But the industry is, unfortunately, diminishing. Since 1975, the number of breweries has decreased by half and production is down by one third.
Our company’s mission is to support small craft sake breweries so they can survive. We are a retailer and exporter of small craft sake breweries’ products, including our original brand: Reiwashu sparkling sake.
During the lockdown, many restaurants and izakaya were closed, so they were not buying sake from us. We had to hold more inventory and small craft sake breweries didn’t know what to do with their stock.
We called up the 100 breweries who we handle and asked them what problems they were facing. The dilemma was that, while famous breweries have their sake listed on Amazon or Rakuten, our small craft sake breweries did not. The ¥150,000 registration fee, as well as the risk of not standing out if they did list products there, made trying to sell online not worth it for them. What’s more, they mainly take orders by visiting restaurants and bars, so most of their business is handled through email and fax.
So we started to brainstorm with the breweries about what we could do from home.
E-commerce as the New Normal
After the lockdown, it was important for us to create a new bilingual e-commerce site that specialized in such sake breweries that would allow customers to enjoy the products in the comfort of their homes. The goal was to get Japanese sake lovers and foreign residents who are interested in learning more about sake to buy online.
What we often hear from foreign residents is that they don’t know what and how to choose. Since the fear of Covid-19 is still there, I am sure that people will be less likely to gather or travel. So having meetings and organizing events online would be our “new normal”.
Support Group for Sake Breweries
We started to organize a Facebook community—the Corona support group for sake breweries (the official name is コロナ支援•酒蔵を守ろう！！全国酒蔵家呑みセット情報グループ) —to set up online drinking parties that would help such outfits and allow them to promote their products and connect with fans. Customers can use our newly launched nihonshu store to purchase sake sets.
We also organize online sake tasting events with breweries every Sunday. All you need to do is buy a brewery’s sake-tasting set, and you can hear their stories. It’s fun to learn more about their history and passion for their craft. The brewers give detailed explanations about their sake and what kind of food it pairs well with.
They are very informative sessions. Sometimes depending on their internet connection, they will take their phone inside the brewery and show us around. It’s a lot of fun.
Preserving Culture Is Priceless
Organizing events for free is volunteer work for me, but it’s crucial for us to support sake and its culture for our future. Every year, about 100 sake breweries go out of business. Could you imagine if wine were disappearing from France? Neither could I.
I always find something new in organizing our virtual sake tastings and brewery tours every week. I believe the money will come eventually. I am just happy to see smiles from the participants and staff at the breweries during this difficult time.
Let’s support small craft sake breweries together. Please join our virtual sake tasting event every Sunday at 5 pm (limited to 10 people). You will not regret it.
Offer on Connect
Sake Lovers is offering 10% off all sake products on its website. You can check out their offer here.