While Japan’s snack market is extremely developed, it is not in growth, according to data from Euromonitor International. The overall value sweet and savory snacks sector declined by 1% in 2013 to ¥1,106 billion ($10.6bn).
However, local snack players and international brands continue to invest in new product launches across the country. Most recently, PepsiCo launched Mountain Dew-flavored Cheetos, just months after a Pepsi-flavored variant of the snack.
Mariko Takemura, senior research analyst for Euromonitor International, said that manufacturers are always willing to experiment with new flavors and products in Japan.
“This works because there is a portion of consumers in Japan that expect manufacturers to offer new and exciting products,” she told BakeryandSnacks.com.
“Often these product launches serve as a company’s own research and development and allow companies to experiment while also providing ‘buzz-worthy’ products to consumers.”
Standing out in Japan
Takemura said Japan had a very developed snack market and so manufacturers needed to work hard to stand out.
“With limited space within retail environments such as convenience stores, manufacturers are looking for products to stand out in such a competitive market,” she said.
This needs to be done to attract consumers in a busy marketplace, but also to compete against rival brands, she added.
Innovative flavors not key to true growth
Euromonitor research suggests that new flavor development is not key to growing in Japan’s snack market and that instead prospects are in developing the healthy snacks sector.
“Snacks are secondary to meals and not absolutely necessary for living,” Euromonitor International said in a brief on Japan’s snack sector.
“The consumption of sweet and savory snacks has been cut down by consumers, particularly young females who are dieting.”
The research firm said future opportunities for snack companies would be in developing items that appeal to this emerging health and wellness trend.
“Manufacturers are increasingly required to improve the healthy image of snacks, including sweet and savory products, as they have been traditionally associated with higher consumption of oil and calories.”
Discussing PepsiCo’s earlier Pepsi-flavored Cheetos launch, Leatherhead Food Research business innovation manager Steve Osborn previously told BakeryandSnacks.com that the launch was probably nothing more than a marketing move.
“It’s probably more driven by the marketing and coverage the product is going to get… That said, it is interesting that they have introduced it into the Japanese market given it is such a progressive and innovative market with different taste profiles and preferences to the West,” he said.
*This article has been corrected on January 17 to read Japan's $10.6bn snack market. It initially read $190bn.