HAKODATE, Hokkaido (The Japan News-Yomiuri) – Ice cream with sake yeast from one of the most popular sake brands in the country satisfies the cravings of Chinese ice cream lovers.
Made from Dassai Sakekasu, a brown by-product, the ice cream was first handcrafted by Fujireika, a small, long-established ice cream parlor in Hakodate, Hokkaido. At the suggestion of Dassai manufacturer Asahi Shuzo Co. in Iwakuni, Yamaguchi Prefecture, the couple who ran the store decided to outsource production to another factory. You could also use the brewery’s overseas sales channels.
While sales have declined due to the spread of the coronavirus, a proactive approach to overseas markets has been successful.
The Dassai brand itself is very popular abroad, and former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe even chose the sake as a gift to foreign dignitaries.
Akihiro Nakamura, 74, and his wife Kuniko, 70, who run the store founded in 1947, developed Dassai sakekasu ice cream about 10 years ago.
After buying Dassai sake lees online and making the ice cream through trial and error, they were able to create one with the unique Dassai taste, with a smooth sake aroma that quickly fades away.
They sent a sample to Asahi Shuzo, who praised it as very tasty, saying, “It should be commercialized with the Dassai logo.”
Fujireika now sells the ice cream in its own shop and sends it to sushi restaurants in Hakodate, which have used it for their course meals. Asahi Shuzo also started selling the product in her own shop in the Ginza neighborhood of Tokyo.
However, when tourism was hit by the coronavirus pandemic and restaurant sales fell, sales of Fujireika products, including sake lees ice cream, fell by half.
A Chinese woman who works as the manager of Asahi Shuzo’s Ginza store rescued Fujireika from this financial plight.
In around February, she asked Fujireika to increase the production of the ice. When Nakamura and his wife were concerned about increasing production, she convinced them, “We can use sake lees effectively and reduce the amount of food waste. The ice cream will be popular in China.”
In August, Fujireika outsourced production to another company’s factory in Hokkaido for mass production. It started exporting the product to China in October.
In the same month, they shipped 20,000 units to high-end Japanese restaurants in Beijing and Shanghai, and received total orders of 336,000 units for November and December. You have also received inquiries from Macau, Singapore and Vietnam.
The Nakamuras are surprised that their ice cream – which they made on a whim – is so popular abroad.
“While many people cannot come to Japan due to the coronavirus pandemic, demand from overseas is increasing. We’d like to think about expanding our sales channels, ”said Shohei Yamane, director of Asahi Shuzo’s international strategy division.