By making investment in minority shares in US start-ups, the Japanese giant aims to ‘achieve sustainable growth of existing businesses centered on the beer category while expanding into new areas’.
Asahi – which boasts global brands Pilsner Urquell, Peroni, Asahi Dry, Kozel and Grolsch – will focus the fund on supporting US start-ups with ‘attractive brands with significant future growth potential in the low-alcohol beverages, non-alcohol beer-taste beverages and adult soft drink categories’.
It comes as the company launches alcohol-free versions of Asahi Super Dry and Peroni Nastro Azzurro in the US.
Tracking new trends
Managed by a newly established investment management company in San Francisco, namely Asahi Group Beverages & Innovation LLC, the new investment fund will also invest in start-ups with technology for new sales and manufacturing methods. Total investment is expected to reach around $70m by the end of 2025.
“The US alcohol and non-alcohol beverage market is a world leader in creating new categories and trends, as seen in the past significant growth of hard seltzer and energy drinks,” says Asahi Group Holdings as it announces the fund.
“Through minority investment and collaboration with such start-ups, Asahi Group Holdings will use Asahi Group’s business platform to support the expansion of sales in the US and abroad for the products and services provided by those companies.”
Growing beyond Asian and European strongholds
Asahi’s portfolio includes its global brands and a number of local brands across the European (London Pride, Meantime), Oceania (Victoria Bitter), Japanese and Southeast Asian markets.
In the US, Asahi is already represented by Asahi Beer USA Inc, a subsidiary of Asahi Europe & International, which is responsible for the marketing and distribution of beer products (mainly Asahi Super Dry) in the US. Molson Coors, meanwhile, has the distribution rights for Peroni and Grolsch.
In non-alcohol, Asahi Beverages America, Inc., a subsidiary of Asahi Soft Drinks Co., Ltd., is engaged in marketing and distribution of non-alcohol products (mainly Calpico).
As well as supporting new beverage start-ups, the new US unit will also feedback to Asahi headquarters and regional headquarters around the globe on trends in the US market.
Atsushi Katsuki, President and CEO at Asahi Group Holdings said: “In addition to its size, the US is one of the most attractive markets in the world for creating new trends. We look forward to co-creating with startups that will open up new markets for alcohol and non-alcohol beverages. We aim to ‘deliver on our great taste promise and bring more fun to life’ by grasping new trends in the US and creating new value.”
The investment managers of Asahi Group Beverages & Innovation, LLC will consist of employees appointed from the Asahi Group’s regional headquarters, and others to manage the startup investment fund.
Asahi Super Dry 0.0 set to hit US in 2023
Asahi has previously set out its ambitions to grow in the low and no alcohol category: championing its strengths as a company that already plays in both alcohol and non-alcoholic beverages.
It says this has provided the company with a unique opportunity in the beer adjacent categories: including low-alcohol beverages, non-alcohol beverages and adult soft drinks.
By 2025, it wants to see 15% of its sales globally come from non-alcohol and low-alcohol versions of its main alcohol brands.
Last month the company announced the launch of Asahi Super Dry 0.0% internationally: which will hit the US in March following the UK and Ireland launch in January. (The alcohol-free version will also benefit from a strong marketing push at the Rugby World Cup next year: standing alongside the flagship beer at all tournaments in France, spanning 48 matches across nine cities).
Meanwhile, the company also offers Peroni Nastro Azzurro 0.0% - launched in 20+ markets in 2022 and available in the US via distributor Molson Coors.
Outside the US, the company also offers Kozel Non-Alcoholic and Grolsch 0.0 across various global markets.
“The market for non-alcohol and low-alcohol beverages continues to expand globally and the way consumers are drinking also continues to diversify. By popularizing these products, the Asahi Group aims to propose appropriate alcohol consumption and new situations in which to enjoy alcohol and provide new choices for people who choose not to drink alcohol,” noted the company.