In February, Japanese vegetable and fruit juice producer Kagome took advantage of the government’s new ‘Food with Functional Claims’ labeling system to revamp its packaging to highlight the cholesterol-lowering benefits of lycopene in its core Kagome Tomato Juice line. Unit shipments of this product rocketed 3.3-fold within just three weeks. This reversed a downward spiral in sales after the domestic market for tomato juice peaked in 2012 on the strength of the perceived powers of this juice in the fight against metabolic syndrome.
Yasihiro Ando, who oversees planning for home consumption beverages in Kagome’s marketing unit, says: “We decided to present functionality labeling on our tomato juices because consumers wanted metrics on the benefits.” This is because tomato juice has faced more competition in recent years from a rising number of other categories registered under the Food for Specialized Health Uses regime.
Japan’s tomato juice market boomed in 2012 after media outlets publicized research from Kyoto University that indicated that the beverage could help combat metabolic syndrome by burning fat. But after peaking at ¥25 billion (US$240 million) that year, the market thereafter shrank to just over ¥16.2 billion ($157 million), around the level of 2006. Around 20 percent of consumers bought tomato juice throughout the year when the media barrage on metabolic syndrome was heaviest, dipping after that to 17 percent. But Ando believes that there is plenty of reason to believe that the purchase rate could ramp up to above 20 percent.
The prospective demand driver is that core customers for tomato juice are in their 50s through 70s. Women in their 50s have found the product particularly attractive since Functional Claims labeling-compatible offerings rolled out. On top of that, more consumers in their late 30s are receptive to offerings that incorporate lycopene. Research has found that there is considerable potential for awareness to increase even more among people in their 50s and 60s.
The positioning of Kagome Tomato Juice is that it features the nutrient lycopene and increases good cholesterol. Ando says that, “We started trying to highlight these advantages in-house, and we found that the best way to do that was by augmenting text explanations with illustrations and videos.” This process meant that Kagome was able to quickly identify target outlets and complete its promotional tools so its salespeople knew the right tack to take in engaging in negotiating deals.
One new marketing approach was to prepare data that retailers could use when producing their flyers. The data featured product visuals and slogans that retailers could feature as is. “We did a lot of work in-house with our quality assurance and other units to create the right content because we realized that retailers would otherwise find it very difficult to comply with Food with Functional Claims labeling system requirements,” Ando says.
He adds that Kagome has personally targeted both bricks-and-mortar and online store buyers in its marketing by encouraging them to take up what it called the Eight-Week Challenge Campaign. The rationale is that once buyers believe in the product through their intake of lypocene they will find it easier to recommend it to consumers.
While the jury is out on whether growth in tomato juice sales growth is sustainable. Kagome’s data-driven approach to marketing packaging claims seems to have positioned the company well to gain ground among retailers and consumers alike.
Translated from Japanese by Mark Darbyshire
|English-language case studies from Japan are few and far between. In partnership with AdverTimes, a domestic marketing-industry publication, we aim to offer a better understanding of the type of work that resonates in the country.|