For the first time in its honorable life, the sake industry is now realizing that there is no such thing as a free lunch. Historically, consumers chose sake. Firstly it was the only alcohol around for many hundreds of years. Secondly, it had ingrained itself in the abundant ceremonial aspects of Japanese religious and social culture. Thirdly, it aligned itself with the fastidious “tea ceremony” culture, which spun off into a valuable partnership with the kaiseki way of food pairings. Finally the history of sake went careening into the roaring 80’s where most business deals were consummated with a bottle of sake in a karaoke bar rather than in a boardroom. Sake had traction. But alas that traction is now a slippery slope and all of the loyalties of the past no longer come into play for the future of sake. Customers must be created, cultivated, and captured, and the sake industry has no real sense of direction in this capacity. Talk about a rudderless super tanker.
The sake industry was used to people coming to them, and now they are charged with competing in a dog-eat-dog world of alcoholic libations. Many say that they will not be able to compete. Branding, marketing, and advertising are actions that sake makers felt were beneath them, but in the recent past they have tried their best. Large or macro breweries have a far better track record at appealing to consumers, whereas the smaller local jizake do not have the bottom-line to afford marketing and advertising efforts. But they must if they want to compete. Or they must rely on some other “trend” or fad boom to bring some attention or popularity back to small hand crafted sakes for daily drinking and not just gift giving.