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    Kanpai! Drinks from Japan are global trendsetters

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    Flavoured alcoholic mixed drinks, highly carbonated soft drinks and beverages with health benefits are booming in Japan – Will they soon also be bestsellers in other countries?
    • Beverages that are designed to boost health and beauty are one of the current trends in Japan.

    THE trendy drinks in Japan include Chūhai, Ramune Soda and Aojiru. Some of them might soon be on everyone’s lips all across the globe.

    Would you like a Chūhai? This canned alcoholic mixed drink consists of fruit juice, soda and Shōchū, a spirit very popular in Japan. Or would you prefer a Ramune Soda? It is a soft drink made of carbonated water and lemon, lime and sugar flavours. Or rather an Aojiru, which translates as “green juice”? It is a mixture of kale and other leafy vegetables said to help protect against signs of ageing, promote weight loss and even help prevent cancer.

    Anyone on the lookout for new beverage trends would be well advised to turn their gaze eastwards – to the Japanese beverage market, which has always had an influence on drinking habits worldwide. Case in point: Yakult, a milk-based beverage containing lactic acid bacteria, is the best-known functional drink outside Japan and sold in 38 different countries. Or take matcha: The green powder is omnipresent worldwide these days – and not only as tea. The origins of this trend can also be traced back to Japan.

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    Today, the trendy cafés in this world sell matcha biscuits and matcha cake, matcha tea latte and Matcha Frappuccino.

    What are the latest trends?

    According to Global Data, consumption of flavoured alcoholic mixed drinks in Japan is forecast to rise from 5.9 per cent of total beverage consumption in 2020 to eight per cent by 2025. In addition to the Chūhais mentioned above, highballs are particularly popular. This classic cocktail, consisting of whiskey and soda, is also available ready-mixed in cans. However, experts have for some time now been warning against these mixed drinks because they may tempt young people, especially, into unhealthy drinking habits. In Germany, there was a debate along similar lines in regard to alcopops. These sweet and colourful mixed drinks had since the start of the new millennium been highly popular among young people. After a special alcopop tax was introduced in 2004, though, the trend lost its momentum.

    Drinks that make you healthy and beautiful

    Highly carbonated soft drinks and “health drinks” are a different kettle of fish altogether. They are ranked among the functional drinks and not meant to intoxicate like the Chūhais, but rather to help people boost their health and beauty – by fighting fatigue, for example, or improving digestion, reducing signs of ageing or promoting weight loss. 

    This trend comes as no surprise. People have developed a heightened awareness for a healthy lifestyle, which results in rising demand for beverages with optimum nutritional properties or – to put it simply – with beneficial effects on both body and mind. Products with such properties have been much sought after for quite some time now, and the pandemic has led people to focus even more intensely on wellness, immunity and stress relief.

    The market research company Mintel describes three trends in this context.
    People go for drinks that

    1. ensure their physical, mental and emotional wellbeing,
    2. satisfy their needs for upmarket quality,
    3. they can use to demonstrate they are part of a group.

    The numbers attest to that: According to the IMARC market research company, the Japanese market for functional drinks grew substantially between 2015 and 2020. It is forecast to increase by another 13 per cent each year up to 2026. Global Data expects the Japanese beverage market in general to grow by 1.6 per cent by 2025.


    As far as drinks requiring sensitive filling are concerned, three countries are clearly out in front in terms of consumption: China with 35,763 million litres, the USA with 26,727 million litres and Japan with 12,657 million litres.


    Well-established and enjoying unbroken popularity

    But let’s not forget well-established products for all those new trends. Green tea and coffee, both of them ranked among the sensitive beverages, have enjoyed unbroken popularity in Japan. Canned coffee was invented here way back in the 1960s – a convenient option for having a coffee or two on the go. People get their bottled or canned coffee in the shop round the corner or from a vending machine. And it’s available hot or cold, depending on the season of the year. At present, low-sugar versions are highly sought after. They are also said to support a healthy lifestyle.

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    Green tea and coffee, both of them ranked among the sensitive beverages, have enjoyed unbroken popularity in Japan.

    Aseptic filling systems for sensitive beverages

    You need top-quality lines and systems to produce top-quality drinks, and quality is the top priority in Japan. Coffee and tea, mixed drinks, highly carbonated soft drinks and beverages with health benefits, they all require a sensitive filling process. The obvious choice here are aseptic lines like those from the Krones Contipure AseptBloc family, which ensure reliable product filling without thermal impact and offer a high degree of automation and flexibility backed by spot-on reproducibility. Paul Schönheit, sales manager for aseptic solutions at Krones, explained the advantages involved to a Japanese customer as follows: “How can you tell it’s a good aseptic line? It presents itself to its users and operators with all due modesty, keeping things simple. So it is neither the complexity of a line’s processes nor its simple design that tells you it is a good aseptic line, but rather the clear and simple operating and handling routines.”

    The aseptic lines from Krones can be fitted with many different types of filling valve and are suitable for a wide range of containers and closures. They can also be used to produce small or big outputs, so customers enjoy maximised flexibility. That means the technical solutions offered are just as multi-facetted as the market itself. And yet another advantage: Producers do not have to specify a single product and stick with it. If a certain trend does not catch or if a new trend emerges, the line can easily be used for treating and filling another beverage.

    An innovation already being used by Japanese customers is treatment in the Contipure AseptBloc E without the use of chemicals. This unit renders germs harmless by means of electron beams, achieving a killing rate of log 6. Each of the processing steps – stretch blow-moulding, filling, closing – has been integrated into an aseptically safe process chain.

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    An innovation already being used by Japanese customers is treatment in the Contipure AseptBloc E without the use of chemicals.

    Drinking sustainably

    Besides the beverage trends described, another important development in favour of recycling PET bottles can be observed in Japan. For the Japanese, it is common practice to remove the label from the empty plastic bottle and to dispose of label and bottle separately, each in the waste bin earmarked for it.


    The PET containers end up in recycling plants, which form yet another part of the Krones portfolio: the MetaPure  technology with washing and decontamination modules. In Japan, too, sustainability and recycling have for quite some time now been everyday reality, not some future trend.

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    Back into the loop: Recycling breathes new life into PET bottles several times over.

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