Shochu Yaro restarts as a brand that spreads the “fun of spending time with shochu”

SHOCHU X made a fresh start in the fall of 2021. In addition to launching the new product ``Kiraboshi'', we renewed the existing product ``Kizuna'' (changed the capacity and packaging and revised the price). We will focus on "the rich time brought to you by high-quality shochu" and communicate its appeal. It has been one and a half years since our founding in April 2020. SHOCHU

I want to change the situation where only price is the focus

-- Please tell us how you redefined your brand.

Hashimoto (hereinafter the same): About 8 to 9 months after founding the company, I realized that there was a gap between what I was aiming for and the current situation.

To tell you about our history since our founding, I wanted to make shochu an alcoholic beverage that was drunk around the world, and to do that, the industry's overall product pyramid was missing the "top" (high-quality, high-alcohol content, high-priced products). I thought there was. Therefore, we decided to partner with Ebisu Sake Brewery (Asakura City, Fukuoka Prefecture), a long-established sake brewery, to sell 40% barley shochu made using a special manufacturing method (all koji in 3 stages) at a price commensurate with its quality. is.


Thanks to you, sales are going well. We received positive feedback from customers who purchased the product.


However, the distorted situation gradually became apparent. ``It's perfect as a gift,'' ``It's hard to drink on a regular basis, but I'll open it on a special day,'' ``It's delicious even though it's expensive,'' ``This packaging isn't worth the price,'' etc., etc., etc., and the reason for picking it up, how you drink it, and how you feel about it. , I'm starting to feel like I'm being dragged down by the price.

-- Because the price comes first, people are not able to incorporate good alcohol into their daily lives, and when it comes time to try it, the price information becomes noise.


Since this was a product that was aiming for the top, we put a premium focus on it, but as a result, I think the price made the product look too strong. Because of the wrong way of PR, we ended up interfering with customers' enjoyment of shochu...


While we were in a state of confusion as we prepared for the new product, we asked SAGA (Koto Ward), which we admired, to handle the design. That was around January this year. However, the design was not completed even after four to five months. Looking back, I think that when we try to add a new product to the same lineup as an existing product, there are certain things that need to be followed, and it no longer matches what we want to achieve going forward.


Around June, (SAGA representative) Mr. Sagae (Wata) suggested, ``Why don't you rebrand it?'' and I thought, ``Oh, that's what it's all about.'' The word "rebranding" made me realize what I was thinking. Before I started designing, I wanted to break away from the monotonous price tag and transform into a brand that properly spreads shochu culture.

A new type of sake that combines the characteristics of shochu and hard liquor


-- Specifically, what will the new SHOCHU X change?


The concept of the rebranding is "TRANSFORM SHOCHU". The "X" in the company name stands for "transform," so it feels like we're going back to what we really wanted to do, rather than changing things. We want to transform shochu and the experience through shochu.


Specifically, the most obvious change is the alcohol level. Compared to traditional shochu, which was centered around 25 degrees, both Kijina and Kousei are around 40 degrees. In order to go out into the world, we keep the alcohol content to the same level as regular hard liquor. Although it's shochu, it's not 25% alcohol, and although it's 40% alcohol, it's not hard liquor, so I think we need to start telling people how you can drink it.

Shochu is often drunk as an after-dinner drink, and hard liquor as an after-dinner drink, but Kijina and Kousei can be enjoyed with hot water, tea, or soda while having a lively meal with others, or they can be enjoyed alone. You can enjoy it straight or on the rocks while snacking on chocolate. Broadly speaking, it is a redefinition of shochu. We will take on challenges in both the product itself and customer communication.


-- What kind of alcohol is Kousei, the first product of the rebranding?

This barley shochu is characterized by a blend of unprocessed sake aged in sherry barrels and shochu stored in tanks. A combination of the aroma derived from sherry barrels and the flavor typical of shochu. We believe we have created a shochu with a scent reminiscent of vanilla and cinnamon, and a soft texture.

Blending is actually the crux of making distilled spirits. For example, you might think that Suntory's single malt whiskey "Yamazaki" tastes the same no matter when you drink it, but in reality, the flavor of the unprocessed sake stored in each barrel differs slightly. A craftsman called a blender skillfully combines these ingredients to ensure that the final product always has the same taste.


Since around November last year, I and the manufacturer (Ebisu Sake Brewery) have been developing a new blend for Kousei. After tasting hundreds or thousands of combinations, we ended up blending five types of original sake. There are three types of barrel aging and two types of tank storage. Most of them have a shelf life of 10 years or more and are of high quality.

Our company does not have manufacturing capabilities and receives OEM supplies from manufacturers. Not being able to make things from scratch is a weakness, but because we don't make them, we can also say that we are not tied down.


Each shochu maker has its own specialty raw materials (potato, rice, barley, etc.) and its own manufacturing methods depending on tradition and regional characteristics, and the sake they make has certain characteristics. That's great, but we can first imagine the concept and taste of the sake we want to make, and then select and blend the sake that matches it. I think this degree of freedom is something that manufacturers don't have.


Communicating “experiences” through various methods such as events


-- How would you change the way you convey the appeal of shochu?


I want people to be able to imagine the experience. It can be enjoyed as an adult drink even when mixed with it, so I would like to spread the word about what goes well with it, and what kind of tea is delicious.


Up until now, I think the high prices have been too prominent, and people have thought that the dishes have to be high-class as well. However, distilled spirits naturally go well with everything, whether it's Japanese or Western food. For example, it would be nice to value the story and pair it with home cooking or specialty dishes from the region where the unprocessed sake is produced, rather than scientifically explaining that this and that are the same in terms of taste.

I would like to show each pairing and the time surrounding shochu. In addition to introducing our products on social media, we would also like to collaborate with restaurants, tableware/sakeware shops, and other industries to hold events and share our experiences.


I would like to tell people that you should not limit the timing of drinking it to special occasions, but rather enjoy it on a regular basis. When it comes to sake and wine, it may be best to save one bottle for a really special occasion. However, in most cases, shochu cannot be consumed in the same day, nor is it an alcoholic beverage that should be consumed. Since it is a distilled liquor, the taste does not deteriorate even after opening the bottle.


Up until now, people have been paying attention to our high prices, and we have had no choice but to say, ``It's a special occasion.'' However, I wanted to express the more diverse and rich moments that shochu brings.


-- Please tell us about your plans and ideas for the future.


Most recently, during the Christmas season, we are planning to offer unique shochu in collaboration with another manufacturer. Details will be announced later, but I think this will probably be the first time that this type of shochu is commercially available. It's a challenge, but those who like it will love it. We will be selling it as a limited edition item, which is different from Kijina and Kousei.


In the future, we plan to manufacture shochu ourselves from scratch. For now, it's more of a hope than a plan. The entry of new businesses into the production of sake and shochu is effectively restricted, and under the current system, the only way for new businesses to enter the industry is to acquire a manufacturer and obtain a license to manufacture alcoholic beverages. By announcing my intention on a regular basis, I would like to increase the chances of being approached and somehow make it happen.

Once we are able to make our own gin, we will try our best to create premium brands for the mass market, such as gins such as ``Kinomi'' and ``Tanqueray Number Ten,'' which have a luxurious feel, are well known, and are easily available. We would like to launch it as soon as possible.


I really enjoy thinking about shochu, whether it's about the future or the product in front of me. If it were just about price like before, I honestly think it would be a better business for someone who is good at web marketing to run, rather than me (a shochu enthusiast). From now on, I will do what I can because I love shochu. I'm really excited right now.