Posts Tagged ‘suntory’

The latest funky food flavors, coming soon to a konbini near you

Tuesday, July 2nd, 2013

Japan is known for its seasonally flavored foods. Swing by your local konbini in the fall and you’re likely to encounter limited-edition beverages, snacks and candies that weren’t on the shelves a few months earlier.  Some companies pump out more flavors than others, with Nestle’s Kit Kat chocolates alone having dozens of varieties. This summer, manufacturers are debuting a number of interesting flavors to entice convenience store shoppers.

  • As if summer needs to be any hotter, Tohato will begin selling habanero pepper and lemon-flavored corn chips in late July. We’re excited about this one, despite the sinister face on the bag. The company will also be debuting yogurt-honey Caramel Corn and arrabbiata-flavored chips, which arrive in Japan this month.
  • A few weeks ago, we reported on our taste test of the Pepsi-flavored cheetos, which hit the shelves Monday.
  • More directly on the beverage front is Suntory’s Boss Black Sparkling. Best served cold, this carbonated coffee hopes to refresh and awaken those gulping it down on a hot summer afternoon. (Note: If you preferred your fizzy coffee hand-poured, Excelsior Caffé has begun offering a “Perriespresso,” which combines Perrier sparkling water with the chain’s espresso over ice.)
  • The average konbini has a pretty impressive array of instant noodles, but how many of them would satisfy a hankering for Italian? Maruka Foods is now selling peperoncino-flavored instant yakisoba, which combines the convenience of instant noodles with the Italian pasta sauce made form garlic, oil and chillies.
  • A few weeks back, Luna began selling its mint-flavored yogurt. This seems like it could be a crowd-pleaser, with the soothing mint and cooling yogurt making for a perfect way to fend off afternoon drowsiness during the dog days.
  • For dessert, check out Kabaya’s ramune-flavored chocolate  that fizzes just like the soda pop.

Can you put new wine in new PET bottles?

Tuesday, October 9th, 2012

On Sept. 25, Asahi released Ste. Neige Rela, a new line of cute, pocket-size 320-ml PET bottle wines. While it may sound a bit unusual, the introduction of miniature bottles of wine in clear plastic is in line with a general shift in Japan’s wine market and could trigger a trend for wine to be sold in smaller containers in the future.

Pocket-size Ste. Neige Rela

On its website,  Asahi points out that the market for what they call “daily wine” is growing. This year between January and April, sales in this sector were up 112.4 percent, compared to the same period last year. Asahi’s market research revealed that there was room for the trend to speed up if customer perceptions about wine could be altered. Key obstacles they found were that many consumers in Japan still see wine as something for special occasions only, they found the selection process difficult and they were reluctant to drink a whole bottle.

Asahi released the original range of 750-ml PET bottle Ste. Neige wine in May 2011, marketing it as a casual, everyday wine. The product has sold better than expected, and between January and July this year the company reached its sales target for the year: 200,000 boxes (each box contains 12 bottles).

The idea of using PET bottles rather than glass bottles as containers for wine is not entirely new to the Japanese market. PET bottle wines were introduced in 2009 by Mercian, as a way to slash bottle prices to revive the flagging Beaujolais Nouveaux market. However, outside of the Beaujolais Nouveaux market, the idea of cheap PET bottle wine didn’t really take hold until recently. This summer, in particular, that resistance began to erode. In August, Kikkoman started using PET bottles for their French table wine Chapeau Bleu, and in the same month Mercian went nationwide with their PET bottle Bon Rouge range of wines.

One noticeable feature of both Mercian and Asahi’s ranges is that both of these domestically produced wines have a low alcohol content. Rela comes in at just 10 percent and Mercian at 11.5 percent (though the organic wine comes in at 12 percent). Non-alcoholic and low alcoholic beer and chu-hi has been trending in recent years in Japan, so it makes sense to reduce alcohol levels in wine from their typical 12-13 percent mark to appeal to the new breed of responsible drinkers, even if this will raise eyebrows with real wine aficionados.

Suntory has even gone so far as to release a wine that clocks in at just 7 percent. The company has been selling its sparkling rose Wine Can since March 2011. The can, which contains just 250 ml of wine, is another signal that smaller containers of wine may be successful in the future. Indeed, rather than release the product for a limited trial period, the company went straight ahead and added Wine Can to its line-up of regular products. Now that Asahi has got in on the act with their petit PET bottle wine, we think it’s likely other beverage companies will follow suit.

Will summer colas quench thirst for new flavors?

Monday, May 23rd, 2011

Just the thing when you're parched?

When it comes to beverages, the Japanese tend to mix it up a bit and are always thirsty for new flavors and innovations. To quench that thirst, this month three new colas are being launched on the market, just in time for the summer months ahead. As this year is going to be a particularly hot one, with general aircon usage severely curtailed, here’s a quick round-up:

We’re betting this year that the front-runner is going to be Pepsi Dry. Following on from the hugely successful limited-edition novelty flavors of shiso, baobab, Mont Blanc and azuki, the gimmick this time is that the drink is not so sweet. Half as sweet as normal colas, the Suntory drink is designed to be refreshingly dry on a hot summer’s day. On sale from May 24, Pepsi Dry will cost ¥140.

Bridging the gap

Asahi have countered with a healthy cola, which contains vitamin C, vitamin B6 and caffeine. A crossbreed of energy drink and cola, Dodekamin Energy Cola is made to give you a jump start when your energy is flagging. It’s definitely going to appeal to sweaty salarymen battling with the heat under difficult conditions. Launched May 17, the drink costs ¥140 for a 500 ml pet bottle.

Our final cola is a limited edition number sold exclusively at Family Mart and AmPm. Definitely coming under the novelty cola category, Sakuranbo (Cherry) Cola, is unlike any cola we’ve seen before and its shocking pink color almost seems to disqualify the drink from the cola category. We’ve not tasted this particular concoction yet but Colawp.com remarks that it does have an intriguing sweet and sour flavor. The drink, manufactured by Suntory, went on sale on May 3 and costs ¥147.

 

 

 

Bringing nihonshu into the mix

Tuesday, May 10th, 2011

Fancy a sake and tonic? The owners of Sake Hall Hibiya Bar are hoping the answer from young drinkers will be a hearty yes as they attempt to carve out a new niche in Japan’s crowded drinks market. The bar, which bills itself as the world’s first specialist sake cocktail bar, opened in Ginza on April 20 and is a collaboration between seven different sake brewers who are using the venture to raise the profile of the much-maligned sake cocktail.

Yep, that's what they call a sake bomb.

Though sake cocktails, such as the sake bomb, have made a splash overseas, the concept has yet to gain traction in Japan, according to Food Stadium. Many of the sake producers I spoke to at Foodex, a couple of years ago seemed to view the concept of mixing sake with anything as an aberration, but some were trying to run with the concept with a special stand serving cocktails shaken by bow-tied bartenders from snazzy silver shakers. This new venture is simply raising the profile of a campaign that has yet to gain momentum.

If they can pull it off, the rewards could be huge. Suntory’s campaign to promote the highball has brought the company a whole new generation of whiskey drinkers, who like the idea of whiskey as a sophisticated drink but are put off by the high alcohol content. Nihonshu suffers from the same image problem whiskey did years back: it’s perceived as both expensive and way too strong. Many young drinkers instead prefer to instead drink shochu with a mixer which allows them to enjoy the tipple without getting immediately smashed.

The SAKE nic (¥580) is at the forefront of Sake Hall Hibiya Bar’s campaign to reinvent sake in Japan: The drink is a blend of seven different sakes mixed with tonic and a sliver of orange peel, and is designed to be refreshing and zesty. Their other trademark drink is the Sake Espuma (¥630): sake blended with a special machine that gives the drink a beer-like frothy head. In addition to offering 150 types of sake cocktails, the bar is covering its bases by also offering classic spirit-based cocktails, whiskey and beer.

But a small band of sake producers don’t have the advertising clout that a huge company like Suntory possesses, so even if they can get people drinking these cocktails, it’s going to take awhile for the trend to take hold. In the hopes that trend will catch on elsewhere the bar will be holding sake cocktail workshops for restaurateurs and other promotional events.

Can sake shake off its old geezer image and get with younger drinkers? The owners of Sake Hall Hibiya Bar have certainly got their work cut out for them. According to C Scout, a 2009 survey of women aged 20-30 showed that 75 percent of them hardly ever drink nihonshu and that’s just the demographic they’re aiming to turn around.

Photo: Marcelo Teson

The cheapest night out/in

Wednesday, March 10th, 2010

Koenji's nameless econobar

Koenji's nameless econobar

Setting the bar (geddit?) even lower for cheap spaces to drink and/or enjoy a quiet cigarette in was this new establishment spotted in Koenji last weekend. Japan Pulse already blogged about standing bars that are offering cheap drinks and no table charge in exchange for enjoying your brew in a no-frills environment. But this place takes that frugal concept even further by doubling as a refuge for beleaguered smokers who can enjoy a ciggie in a quiet atmosphere for only the price of a can of vending-machine coffee.

Alcoholic drinks, which can be bought from a hole in the wall, cost a mere ¥300, while soft drinks can be bought for about ¥130 from a bank of machines lining one wall. The bar, doesn’t have a name (such luxuries as signage were probably seen as frivolous), but it does have wide screen TVs showing sports programs to its penny pinching patrons.

For those who want to further strip away the cost of a night out on the tiles, you might want to set up a Skype nomikai with your friends. That’s right; in the digital age drinking at home alone is no longer considered sad. Plus, you’re economizing even more on travel costs when you don’t have to pay to reach a drinking venue. J-Cast reports that this trend is booming and it’s not just Skype that’s being utilized. Twitter users in Japan are using the hashtags  #wanabeer and #twinomi to group together and chat while boozing, be they at home or in a real bar.

Continue reading about online drinking →

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