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Japan’s Growing Barley Shochu Market

Dr. Toshiro Omori

Sanwa Shurui Co.

Genuine shochu is a traditional Japanese spirit, produced mainly in the Kyushu region in the southwestern part of the Japanese archipelago. Japanese shochu production is characterised by the use of koji and by its method of distillation. Whereas malt is used in the fermentation of whiskey and beer, koji is used in shochu fermentation. Koji is peculiar to Asia, because it is produced by growing a culture of microorganisms of the Aspergilus family that are suited to temperate and humid climates from cereals such as rice or barley. Distillation is done in a single process, which preserves the original flavour of ingredients, producing rich varieties of shochu with unique flavours.

Shochu is variously made from barley, sweet potato, rice or buckwheat. Sanwa Shurui produces a genuine barley shochu called iichiko. Most of the barley used in the production of iichiko is imported from Australia.

There are eleven stages in the production of iichiko : 1 Polishing,

2 Steeping, 3 Steaming, 4 Making of barley koji, 5 Seed mash, 6 Grain mash, 7 Distillation, 8 Filtration, 9 Aging, 10 Blending and 11 Bottling.

In 1999, consumption of genuine shochu in Japan was 3% of total alcohol consumption. The Japanese shochu market is growing by a few percent every year, and further growth is expected in future. Iichiko barley shochu boasts the No.1 market share.

At Sanwa Shurui Co., we have been engaged in ongoing research and quality control in the areas of barley crop improvement, fermentation technology, cultivating and improving varieties of culture specimens and blends, through which we have succeeded in producing unprecedented fruity aroma and good flavour in our barley shochu.

Along with our product iichiko, we also extract various compounds from barley wastes produced after distillation, such as polyphenol, peptides, food fibre, yeast extracts (nucleic acids and amino acids), citric acid, etc., marketing health food supplement products called FBE (fermented barley extract) and fermented barley fibre.

In this way, we have succeeded in making the most of the barley ingredient through producing both barley shochu liquor as well as functional natural food supplements from the same source. Our aim is to create a "barley network" through offering these products on the market to society at large, as well as conducting joint research and information exchange. We introduce to you a spirit called barley shochu, and demonstrate to you the nature of the market and the characteristics of barley shochu production, as well as the possibilities of what can be produced through the fermentation of barley.

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