There is no denying that sake will continue to ride the coattails of Japanese cuisine the world over. As edamame, miso, tofu, ramen, and of course sushi become more ingrained in different cultures the more “touch points” sake has in these markets. Restaurant sales of sake far exceed the retail scenario in foreign lands, and the industry would be wise to promote home consumption of the beverage. But as long as the sushi boom is cooking, the brewers will continue to increase the visibility of sake in this arena. It’s almost free marketing for an industry that knows nothing about marketing. Sushi in this sense is a gift, and the Japanese Brewers Association should take note and advantage of this situation.
The future for the sake industry is now! Sake makers need to create drinkers. They need to cultivate a culture of modern sake drinking which includes getting young Japanese and female drinkers to the table. They need to continue to make sakes that reflect this “newness” and they need to support sub-groups like the female sake sommelier associations. If the sake industry can transform and adjust to the current drinking “scene,” if they can continue to create markets abroad, and if they can fight with gusto, there is a good chance the national beverage of Japan has a future. If they remain in their fixed ways and methods then the future does not look so promising.
Brewers have been making sake almost the same way for hundreds of years, the problem remains that they have not changed with the times to reach a new customer base and the vacuum that has been created can either take all of the air out of this proud industry or could prove to be that “great green pasture” for the future of sake.