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The UK will use Rugby World Cup 2019 to plug English sparkling wine and gin in Japan

The UK government will try to raise the demand for English sparkling wine and gin overseas at the Rugby World Cup in Japan next month.


Hambledon is one of three English wine brands being showcased at the event. (Photo: Hambledon)

The British Embassy, British Consulate-General and the British Council in Japan are launching a major, year-long campaign next month to promote collaboration between UK and Japanese businesses as Brexit looms.

The campaign, called UK in JAPAN 2019-20 was first announced when Prime Minister Abe visited the UK in January this year, and has been organised in the hopes it can “strengthen the bilateral relationship” between the two countries further and “deepen our partnership as forward-looking global leaders.”

As part of the initiative, UK produce will be showcased at a “Food is GREAT Gallery” at three Rugby World Cup host cities for Home Nation’s games, “giving Japanese consumers a taste of Britain,” according to a statement.

According to the British Embassy in Tokyo, the gallery will focus on gin, English sparkling wine, and British beef and lamb.

The gallery will appear in Sapporo from 21-23 September, Kobe from 28-30 September, and Tokyo from 12-14 October.

The 2019 Rugby World Cup begins on September 20, with Japan set to become the first Asian country to hold the global showpiece.

In addition, the embassy will host five separate “GREAT Weeks” between September 2019 and 2020, promoting business and academic collaboration between the UK and Japan through trade missions, seminars, receptions, and panel discussions.

Speaking on the campaign’s launch, British ambassador to Japan, Paul Madden CMG said: “The UK/ Japan partnership continues to go from strength to strength and the UK in JAPAN 2019-20 campaign is a unique opportunity to further build on the ties between our two countries. I am looking forward to an exciting year ahead where we can not only showcase UK excellence in business, science, education and culture, but also forge new relationships with Japan in those fields.”

“We recognise the need to work together to respond to some of the major global challenges facing both our countries; healthy ageing, increased opportunity to use AI and data, climate change and the future of mobility.

“Many of the events throughout the campaign will be held within a UK House concept created within the British Embassy and across Japan. I am looking forward to meeting as many of you as possible through ‘UK in JAPAN 2019-20’.

Global exports of UK gin rose by 15% last year, compared to 2017, reaching a record value of £612 million, according to the WSTA.

Sales of English and Welsh wine rose 6% to a record 4 million bottles in 2018, according to the latest figures from IWSR published by the WSTA, with 2018 widely credited as a ‘game-changer’ for English and Welsh wine. Around 8% of these were overseas exports, according to a report by WineGB released this year.

The industry body claims that exports could account for 30-40% of the total wine produced in Britain by 2040, yielding a potential value of some £350 million per year.

While China and Japan make up 1% and 3% of Britain’s overseas wine sales respectively, the rest of Asia, the report shows, holds a 12% share of the export market. As a whole, the continent takes in around 31,200 bottles of GB wines.

Speaking to the drinks business this month, Andreas Brokemper, CEO of international sparkling wine giant Henkell Freixenet, said he believed English fizz could take “decades” to catch on with overseas consumers.

“To the rest of the world it is difficult to tell people to drink English sparkling instead of Champagne,” he said.

The CEO added that, due to the fact that English fizz is relatively expensive compared to Prosecco or Cava, producers still have some way to go to raise demand overseas.

“I know others are looking into it, but we believe that owing to the high price point it will, for the first decades, remain an English phenomenon.”

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