In February, there was an important private event hosted by one of America’s prime alcohol importers. I brought Gassan’s producer, Yoshida-san with me. This event is an extremely important event for the producers, importer, distributors, and the people handling the retail store businesses.
About 300 industry professionals attended the event, which was conducted during two Monday – February 18th and 25th. I assume that about 600 industry people in total came to the event to get more information about wine, beer, sake and other beverages.
Yoshida-san was really happy to see his sake at the warehouse. I met Yoshida-San around two years ago in Japan, while looking for Sake that potentially could sell well in the US market. I was having a tough time finding the product and producer however, and when I met him in Tokyo, he let me taste the Sake he represented which I thought was very tasteful and rich – the perfect product for exporting to the USA. I thought that many Americans would enjoy drinking Mountain Moon Sake a great deal! After i met Yoshida-san, I spent about a year recommending to the importer as well as performing negotiations – necessary things to start exporting Mountain Moon as one of my primary brands.
This is what the event looked like. As you can see, the place was packed with a lot of industry people, and everybody was looking for attractive products to represent to their clients and customers – the perfect environment for us.
There were producers from South Africa, Spain, France, and other countries showing their products and exchanging information with industry people. Everybody was passionate about their products and I just thought even by being at this event, I can learn a lot of things about promoting sake. The important point is to listen to their needs, demands and their hopes – then respond correctly.
I’ve made about 10 pages long of “Why sake is an attractive product to sell” sheet, it covers some comparison of wine and sake, such as similarities and differentiation of wine and sake, I even mentioned sake brewing process as well. A lot of people in the US are interested in home-brewing of beer nowadays; so many attendants were interested in how sake is made. I strongly believe that in order for sake to become more popular in the foreign countries, “Education” is the key. So I would like to keep promoting sake with some educational materials.
I met great sake enthusiasts – industry people – at the event who are going to distribute our premium sake throughout the world.
The good thing about being there was that I could collect many questions posed to me by representatives of the industry. This will help me understand what people are curious about regarding sake, and what kind of questions the distributors would get from their customers. Also, by exchanging information, I can improve my “Educational Sake Sheets” in the future.
Education and Sample tasting is the key
Some people say “selling sake is very difficult”.
And others say “we sell a lot of sake to our clients and customers”
When I compare these two types of clients and industry professionals, I was very interested in seeing why one client can sell Sake well, and others don’t or cannot. I even went to see their stores after the event, and found some solutions for the customers and my clients that may help sake sales in the US. I assume, from experience, that the most important point of promoting sake is to let customers taste it first. Of course, I am talking about the premium grade of sake tasting. The store people who told me that they have been carrying sake since a couple of years, but not selling well – they had never conducted a sake tasting event. So their sake has been sitting on the shelf for so long that they think, “sake is difficult to sell”. The key to selling a new flavor, brand or idea to people is that they need to be able to taste it before purchasing it – especially with a premium product like Sake.
Also, if the store people know more about sake, when they conduct a sake tasting event or even customers ask them about sake, they feel more confident about selling sake. Some said, “we are wine professional, but when it comes to sake, we are still shy to sell it.” This could be a part that we need to work on to expand the sake industry in foreign countries and especially in the USA. Education and Sample tasting is the key.
As a matter of fact, I am not in the US all the time, I live in Japan. In order to enhance sake attention at the retail or restaurant locations, I should improve “basic Sake sheet” that I am giving to the sales representatives, and they in turn can pass it or inform store people more about sake. Then, consumers feel comfortable buying or trying sake to a higher degree than they do today. Of course, I will go visit importers more as well, and promote sake with sales representatives.
During the course of the event, I met a lot of industry representatives, and gotten ideas as well as inspiration of how to enhance the attention given to Sake. This will help me improve my service as well. Overall, I think it was well worth going to the event. In the future, I shall strive to do more Sake promotion.