The big squeeze: Kirin Tropicana Japan
When you think of fruit juice, one brand is always at the forefront – Tropicana. Kirin Beverage and American company Tropicana have had a joint venture since 1991. The company currently operates as a joint venture between Pepsico Inc and Kirin Holdings Co Ltd.
Overseeing Kirin-Tropicana’s operations in Japan is Nobuyasu Kitahara who has been president since September 2012.
What is the image of Tropicana among consumers in Japan?
As a brand of long standing, our customers tell us that when they’re choosing a drink for its delicious flavor, they choose Tropicana. Our image is one of a premium fruit juice drink brand. Our theme for this year is “The Power of Fruit”. We are working to promote fruit juice’s sensation of healthiness and sense of fun.
What are your best-selling products?
Our “Homemade Style” products, primarily the one-liter variety sold in supermarkets. Also, our citrus fruit drinks with pulp in them are popular.
What is your marketing strategy?
We distribute chilled and non-chilled goods. We have established an infrastructure that enables us to sell goods at the right temperature to maximize their delicious flavor, especially our “Pure Premium” range, which contains pure fruit juice and is proving popular with our customers. We are also trying to distinguish our canned and bottled drinks, by giving them the healthy feeling of pure fruit juice. Rather than expanding our marketing, we would rather focus our attention on delivering delicious products containing carefully-selected fruit.
What are some unique characteristics of the Japanese market?
Japan is an extremely vibrant soft drinks market in terms of variety and innovation. When it comes to fruit juice drinks, fruit is being combined with a wide variety of other drink categories to create new markets. In this environment, we align ourselves as a brand providing 100% fruit juice drinks and one that can continue to innovate with new ways of drinking and enjoying fruit juice.
Are the same products popular in Japan as overseas？
Our “Pure Premium” range is sold overseas under the same name, but our other drinks are rebranded for each market. That is because we adapt the production process for the Japanese customer and adjust the flavor for the Japanese palate. Although there is some variation in the products themselves, our flagship “100% orange juice” is our most popular drink overseas and in Japan.
Is the juice sold in Japan the same as America or is it sweeter?
The values the Tropicana brand represents, namely the natural, healthy, energy-giving power of real fruit, are the same worldwide. However, when it comes to taste, we provide flavors that are optimized for regional and cultural variations.
Are there still some retail outlets that you find it hard to get into? For example, many convenience stores sell their own brand of juice.
Certainly, those convenience store private brands are among our main competitors. However, in a crowded market, it is our job to offer something special. Japan’s convenience stores and supermarkets are able to aggressively innovate and customers are requesting continued innovation, so it’s not a big problem.
How are vending machine sales?
They account for around 10% of our total sales. This year our compact 280ml bottled drinks went on sale and have been well received, so we would like to see that percentage continue to grow.
What is your management philosophy?
Tropicana is a subsidiary of PepsiCo, so we adopt its corporate policies. In Japan, PepsiCo and Kirin are a joint venture, so we take the best qualities of our parent companies and aim for practical management.
How much autonomy do you get?
We are asked to adhere to the broader corporate policy, but in terms of the operation of our business, our autonomy is respected.
Is Kirin-Tropicana involved in any charity or community activities in Japan?
Tropicana has been supporting the Bell Mark children’s education charity since 2009. The Bell Mark logo appears on the packaging of our “Tropicana Homemade Style” and “Tropicana Fruit x Fruit” products.