In 2013, the value of granola shipped into Japan was up 55.3% on the year before, worth JPY14.3bn ($143m), according to data from the Japan's Snack Cereal Foods Association. There was more granola shipped than cornflakes in 2013 within the total JPY34bn ($340m) cereal grains imported into Japan.
Mitsue Konishi, food and drink research analyst at Datamonitor Consumer, said granola had drastically changed the perception of breakfast cereal in Japan – a sector long dominated by sugared kids’ brands.
“The success of granola is already phenomenal in Japan. I think this boom continues to grow because of granola’s character; it is versatile, healthy and nutritious,” Konishi told BakeryandSnacks.com.
With granola, consumers realized that breakfast could be more sophisticated, she said.
“A sophisticated image is important for Japanese consumers. Japanese people previously saw breakfast cereal as a lazy breakfast for children.”
Making granola fashionable
Historically, breakfast in Japan had been miso soup with rice, grilled fish, nori seaweed or pickled vegetables, but Konishi said consumers in Japan were looking for faster options as lifestyles became busier.
“Japan’s traditional breakfast is far more complicated than breakfast cereal. So, the granola format is already considered a much easier breakfast option or format.”
For manufacturers wanting to cash in on the granola trend, she said it was important to focus on convenience, but also health and the trendy nature of the typically Western product.
“Health benefits with a fashionable image can be a winning formula,” she said.
Sampling and engagement
Japanese snack major Calbee Frugra implemented a large promotional campaign in 2011 to drive sales of its fruit granola. The company provided free samples and developed a recipe book to engage consumers.
Konishi said such engagement would be important for other companies entering the market.
“The key of granola’s success is its versatility, which really resonates with Japanese consumers who love to try new flavors. And so, suggesting new and unique ingredients will be an important element.”
In addition, brands would need to develop multiple varieties to ensure brand loyalty.