Japanese brewer Kirin pivots from beer in £667 million pharmaceutical investment

Beer giant Kirin is set to invest ¥100 billion (£667 million) in pharmaceuticals over the next three years as part of the company’s shift away from brewing, led by the shrinking beer market in Japan.

Yoshinori Isozaki, chief executive, told the Financial Times in an interview: “If the beer segment would grow forever, it would’ve been better for us to focus on it, because making a challenge in a new business is very tough.”

Kirin Holdings Co. announced last month that it would be selling its stake in a beverage venture it formed with China Resources Holdings Co. for ¥115 billion (just shy of US$1 billion) as it shifts its focus to food, health and pharmaceuticals.

The Japanese brewer was set to gain around ¥39 billion from the sale of its 40% stake to Plateau Consumer Ltd., an investment fund based in the Cayman Islands, it was announced.

The company now hopes to use the technology of the beer-making process in its biotech ventures.

“We want to turn Kirin into a fermentation biotechnology company. We need to grow a new business while the beer segment is still healthy,” Isozaki told the FT.

Kirin unveiled a three-year business plan last month, in which ¥100 billion will be invested in research and development and to expand factories in the health science and pharmaceutical sectors. A further ¥80 billion will be spent on in its beer and beverage business

As part of the shift away from beer and into pharmaceuticals, Kirin will increase production of Citicoline, a memory improving supplement. A new manufacturing facility for the product is set to be up and running by 2023.

Kirin is among Japan’s top beer brands. It also owns Four Roses Distillery in the US and San Miguel Brewery in the Philippines.

Kirin Brewing Company recently released Four Roses Small Batch Select Bourbon into the UK, a whole two years after its US launch

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