Takara Sake USA aims to expand best-selling sakes throughout region

Takara Sake USA Inc., the makers of Sho Chiku Bai Classic, the number one sake sold in the United States, is looking to expand its distribution in the cruise channel, as well as to new markets in the Caribbean and Latin America.

Al Bashian, whose company AAMCO Duty Free has distributed the Takara Sake USA sakes for many years, tells TMI that the time is right for the growth of the brands throughout the region.

“We are hoping to gain some new business and expand our cruise ship business to Europe and Asia, as well as to markets in Latin America,” says Bashian. “We have represented Takara Sake for more than twenty years. We started by just selling a few cases to the cruise ship suppliers; Takara Sakes are now the number one sake sold on the cruise ships.”

“Plus we have had some nice success in the Caribbean, with our biggest markets being Jamaica and the Dominican Republic. Takara has other distributors in the Caribbean and South America and with Takara’s support we are now looking to expand into other areas in the Caribbean. And we are looking to pursue and explore the additional markets in Central and South America.”

Takara Sake USA, while part of Japan’s Takara Group, creates its award-winning sakes out of Berkeley, California, and was established in the United States in 1983. For more than 35 years, the company has been producing its main products including its flagship Sho Chiku Bai Classic in California, taking pure snow melt from the Sierra Nevada Mountains and superior rice from the fertile Sacramento Valley.

Sho Chiku Bai Classic is today the best-selling sake in the United States, and has excelled in sake competitions around the world. In the 2011 U.S. National Sake Appraisal Competition, competing against more than 300 entrants, mostly from Japan, Sho Chiku Bai Classic became the first U.S.-made sake to win a gold medal.

The success and popularity of Sho Chiku Bai Classic has helped change the perception that U.S.-brewed sake is not as good as sake produced in Japan, says the company.

Takara Sake USA was one of the first established sake breweries in the United States and has played an important role in the introduction of Japanese sake culture to the country. In 1990, Takara Sake USA became America’s largest sake producer.

The Takara Sake Tasting Room, opened in 1983 and redesigned and renovated in 1997, receives 10,000 guests each year.

The company has expanded its portfolio past its flagship Sho Chiku Bai Classic over the years. Today, Takara Sake USA has multiple SKUs of Sho Chiku Bai, including Sho Chiku Bai Nigori, which was the first Nigori-style sake produced for the U.S. market in 1985.

Takara has continuously introduced new sake genres, such as fruit flavored HANA sake, and nigori-style flavored YUKI. The fruity HANA series is comprised of Lychee, Fuji Apple, White Peach, Orange, Pineapple; and the YUKI series features Mango, White Peach, and Lychee flavors.  Takara Plum is a dessert wine that has gained popularity for more than 30 years.

The most recent addition to the Takara line is the innovative Sho Chiku Bai SHO.