Visionary Sidney Frank Brought Gekkeikan to Mainstream! 400 Years of Tradition and 40 Years of Growth
The year was 1972 and it was the same year that the Sidney Frank Importing Company was formed and now forty years later, The House of Gekkeikan is not only the worldwide leader, but is also the largest and most progressive in the United States.
“It has been both an honor and privilege to serve as the sole agent in the United States for Gekkeikan Sake Company, Ltd. for the last 40 years,” said John Frank, Vice Chairman of Sidney Frank Importing Company, Inc.
John Frank is the nephew of visionary Sidney Frank and the son of Eugene Frank. Sidney Frank founded the company after being ousted as President and Chairman of Schenley Distillers in a family-estate battle. Sidney had three employees in 1972 led by his brother ‘Gene’ with a portfolio that just had Gekkeikan Sake and Hudson Bay Scotch.
Frank’s marketing and sales ability along with aggressive promotions and hard work later built iconic brands like Grey Goose Vodka and helped create a culture with a little known German herbal liqueur named Jägermeister.
Founded in 1637 by the Okura family, The House of Gekkeikan has been making sake for almost 400 years and has 14 generations of sake brewing experience, but was more than a cultural specialty item in 1970 on the mainland of the United States when Sidney Frank himself began calling on accounts.
Despite very little consumer interest, Sidney Frank acquired distribution rights to Gekkeikan sake 40 years ago, after a career in spirits with Schenley that included building Dewar’s Scotch to icon status. Over the first 30 year span Gekkeikan’s sales rose 10-15% each year while for many of those years Japanese cuisine and restaurants in this country only saw a 5-percent increase in in the same time period.
But the affinity for Japanese Culture can’t be told without telling the Gekkeikan’s story as a big part of it.
Gekkeikan is one of the few sake brands in the United States that has been able to reach beyond Japanese restaurants and the Asian market, and that success is directly related to the creative marketing and commitment to the brand by Sidney Frank Importing Co. Today you can find an assortment of Gekkeikan Sakes in supermarket and convenience store chains and is the top listed sake in control states as well.
“Through our partnership and joint efforts over the last four decades, Gekkeikan Sake has become the largest sake in the U.S. with sales of over 400,000 cases a year.” said John Frank.
The portfolio is extensive and includes 14 top quality sakes and plum wines that appeal to both sake novices and sake aficionados. Over the centuries, Gekkeikan has refined the sake brewing techniques to combine culture and tradition with innovation, resulting in a comprehensive line of sakes that are versatile, ideal for food pairing and adaptable for various consumption methods.
Gekkeikan Japan is located in the prestigious Fushimi region within the Kyoto Prefecture. Fushimi, meaning “hidden water,” refers to the pristine waters of the region, renowned for their softness and low mineral content, which produces smooth, well-rounded refined sakes that are lightly fragrant and extremely versatile.
In the late 1970s, Japanese cuisine came to be recognized as healthy, and Americans in more metropolitan cities began to develop a liking for sushi and other Japanese dishes.
All sakes from the House of Gekkeikan are sulfite and gluten free, and no doubt that there has been a greater world wide appreciation of Japanese cuisine over the last two decades. Certainly Gekkeikan sake has experienced tremendous growth in popularity.
Now, estimates are that there are over 10,000 Japanese restaurants in America, and with sake being an all but essential accompaniment to Japanese food, the spread of these restaurants has driven up demand for sake. Sake is a leader in other types of Asian restaurants, and present in varied fusion restaurants as well as full service liquor bars and many wine and beer locations have creatively and successfully infused sake into their beverage programs. related link
US Sake sales are brisk and extend beyond metropolitan areas and not only in East and West Coast cities, but also in inland regions and the South.
Meeting this increase in demand, Gekkeikan Sake (USA) , Inc. , has over 20 years of history here in America. Established in Folsom, California in 1989, sales of domestic Gekkeikan(USA) Sake have tripled since the first shipment in 1991. The passion for pleasing the sake connoisseur remains unchanged. Dedicated just as the founder was over 360 years ago, both Gekkeikan Japan and Gekkeikan USA continue the tradition of both taste and quality.
Together with its parent company, Gekkeikan Sake (USA) has over the years supplied sake not only to the USA with its high demand, but also to Canada, Brazil, Europe and other markets throughout the world.