Suntory Plans to Double Gin Production at Its Osaka Plant; Growth Potential for Domestic Gin Market High Compared with Overseas

The Yomiuri Shimbun
The distillery stills that Suntory will upgrade as part of its gin production expansion at a plant in Minato Ward, Osaka

Suntory Spirits Ltd. will spend about ¥5.5 billion to upgrade and expand its plant in Osaka and double its gin production capacity, the beverage company has announced.

Gin is a distilled liquor that is cheaper than whisky. It has been gaining popularity as a drink that easily complements a variety of dishes. Suntory aims to more than double its 2023 domestic sales of gin to ¥34.5 billion by 2030.

The Osaka plant, which began operating in 1919 and is the oldest of Suntory’s existing plants, produces spirits, liquors, whisky, and a catalog of other beverages. Suntory plans to rebuild this facility in stages and to replace four distillation stills as part of the project to boost production capacity and improve the quality of its gin.

Gin, which originated in Europe, is a spirit made from grains including corn and barley. Amid the ongoing whisky shortage, demand in Japan for gin has been growing among people seeking a cheaper alternative to drink with meals.

Suntory has been pouring resources into making gin. Since launching its high-end Roku gin in 2017, the company has been at the forefront of developing new market opportunities. According to Suntory, the domestic gin market in 2023 reached ¥21.1 billion, about triple its size in 2017.

Nikka Whisky, a brand under the umbrella of Asahi Breweries, Ltd., and other makers have also been producing and selling gin mainly for commercial use. The popularity of craft gin, which is made in small volumes, has also been growing.

Despite this, the domestic gin market still has considerable room for growth when compared with markets overseas. The global gin market is reportedly about one-sixth the size of the global whisky market, but in Japan, the gin market is barely one-twenty-fifth that of the whisky market.

In a bid to expand this market, Suntory in December began selling cans of its mainstay Sui gin mixed with soda. On Feb. 20, a limited-edition version of Roku flavored with sakura cherry blossoms and leaves will hit the shelves.

“I’m certain that the gin market will grow even further,” Suntory Spirits Executive Officer Daisuke Tsukahara said at a strategy briefing session Wednesday.