Some of the specialty food we discovered in Japan that we think has good potential to make it here in the American market.
Travel Notes from Japan | Market Observations from Grocery Retail
I was just in Japan for two weeks. I went to conduct some shopper research for a client and while there, had a vacation with my husband and our friends as well. I traveled all over Tokyo, took a bullet train over to Kyoto, drove a car to Mount Fuji and then back to Tokyo. I loved getting to know Japan (and will definitely be back,) had some amazing foodie experiences and learned a lot about Japan’s grocery retail landscape and Japanese shoppers.
Have a look at my photos below to see some of the many observations I made while working and traveling around in Japan.
Firstly, Japan makes a wide variety of specialty foods, some of which looks like good candidates to make it in America. More on that in this separate blog post.
Much like the American market, you’ll find a wide variety of retail outlets ranging from convenience stores (Lawson’s or Family Mart are everywhere,) conventional supermarket chains, independent specialty shops, specialty food chains, and high end food halls and shops inside luxury department stores.
In the cities people are making multiple trips per week to the grocery store. Most pop in by foot or on bicycle. Riding bicycles is huge here. You’ll see moms on their bikes carrying around two children – one in the front and one in the back, leaving very little space to tote around a lot of groceries.
Coffee culture is alive and well here. So glad about that as I’m no fun to be around unless I’m properly caffeinated in the morning.
Specialty bread is also a big deal here. Definitely ate the most expensive bread I’ve ever had and yes it was worth it! Seriously though, how pretty is this bread store? It looks like a jewelry shop. Not limited to just the specialty, expensive types of bread, regular bread is popular too. On several occasions I saw people wrapped around a city block in line for fresh bread at a bakery. With a specialty product like the one you see below, this is more for a gifting occasion instead of a regular purchase, so I’m told by shoppers.
Japanese love their beef. Everyone’s heard of Japan’s famous Wagyu and Kobe beef, both of which are delicious. I did some research on the meat category while there; look for another upcoming blog post soon just about the meat category in Japan.
Japanese shoppers enjoy a wide variety of meat cuts. Go to a butchery or open up a restaurant menu and you’ll see some cuts you may not be familiar with -- like beef tongue. Nice to see people willing to accept those “minority cuts of meat” so the entire carcass is used and nothing goes to waste.
Presentation is taken very seriously here. In the higher end specialty shops you’ll see beautiful merchandising. Staff inside grocery stores seem to take great pride in their work (that’s a nice change!) and obsess over the details ensuring products look perfect on the shelves. While checking in on some of my clients products there, I was very happy to find them in perfect order.
And if you’re like me, and are attracted to pretty, minimal packaging, you’ll find a lot of products that catch your eye.
I observed some organic products, but not a lot. Most of the shoppers I conducted shop-alongs with were not having organic or chemical-free top of mind. That said, what was top of mind is food cleanliness, safety and country of origin.
The USA, France and Australia have done a good job of promoting products from their countries here as the Japanese have an affinity for products coming from these countries.
I observed some unique flavors as ingredients in products like soft drinks, chocolates — basically anything had a version that was matcha green tea, wasabi, peach or cherry blossom/sakura flavor.
On the go eating is not common here as it’s considered impolite to eat while walking around or otherwise on the go. If you buy some takeaway food, it’s meant to be eaten near the vendor before going about your business. Despite that, supermarket shelves have a wide variety of interesting snack food.
Spotted some familiar products from back in the USA on supermarket shelves in Japan.
Does your brand want to launch into the Japanese market?
While in Japan, we took a deep dive into the grocery retail landscape and shopped-along with Japanese consumers, delivering valuable insights, feedback and recommendations for our client who we conducted research for.
Green Purse PR conducts shopper research all over the world and looks forward to doing more shopper research in Japan. Contact us if you’re interested in learning more about the Japanese market and consumers.
Or, are you from a Japanese company that wants to launch into the USA?
Good news — we’ll be back in Tokyo later this year and we’ll be bringing fresh insights from the American consumer market with us. I’m currently planning one of Green Purse PR’s Go To Market USA Workshops. These workshops are for exporters and focus on understanding the American consumer market to ensure export success. Each program is customized, but typically includes a half day or full day workshop covering topics such as: the American retail landscape, shopper insights, best practices in consumer marketing, competitive intelligence, resources and a brainstorming and Q&A session. Click here for more details on the Go To Market USA Workshops and contact us for details on the upcoming program happening later in 2019 in Tokyo.
- Lisa Mabe-Konstantopoulos, Founder, Green Purse PR
SHOPPER MARKETING FOR THE HOLIDAYS | MINI EVENTS FOR MORE OPPORTUNITIES TO CONNECT WITH CONSUMERS
Building our public relations efforts around holidays (major holidays and also the plethora of marketing holidays — see our new 2019 Holidays for Food Marketing List) and seasons often serves as a foundation for the consumer marketing programs Green Purse PR creates. The holiday season and its holidays, (Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa and New Years) are more than just one-time events. Each major holiday can include what we like to call “mini events,” which can stretch out the season and create more purchase opportunities.
“You may be tempted to think of some holidays as just a one-day event, but in reality most holidays are made up of several ‘mini events’ that we can leverage in our shopper marketing. These mini-events translate into more reasons for shoppers to make purchases.” - Lisa Mabe-Konstantopoulos
How many ‘mini events’ (or buying opportunities) can you think of for the holiday season?
Turns out, there’s a lot and some depend upon age and life phase. For example, to connect with parents of young children around just Christmastime alone, here are just a few of the “mini events” (and buying opportunities) you can build shopper marketing around:
Home decorating (which usually begins in the USA the day after Thanksgiving or around the last week of November.) – encouraging people to have the most festive house on the block. Depending on the type of dwelling, a lot of people will put the most effort into their front door - buying a new wreath and floral swag, getting a festive doormat and other accessories to spruce up the entrance.
Black Friday - informal name for the Friday following Thanksgiving Day in the United States, which is celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November.
Cyber Monday - a marketing term for the Monday after the Thanksgiving holiday in the United States. It was created by retailers to encourage people to shop online.
Getting a Christmas tree & wreaths - some Americans make an event of going to a Christmas tree farm to cut down their own tree, while others may buy from a local church, garden center or grocery store.
Stocking up on home decorations - while a lot of people will keep using the same decorations year after year, it’s common to also buy new, trendy decorations like lights, festive cushions and blankets, and outdoor decorations.
Holiday cards - a lot of Americans have a tradition of sending out holiday cards to send greetings to friends, family and colleagues. These days, holiday cards can be quite an expensive production including: curating matching or color coordinating outfits, having a family photo shoot the few months before, creating the card online (with a website like Minted.com,) and spending time assembling and mailing them out.
Trip to visit with Santa - A lot of Americans have the tradition of going to see Santa Claus, either at a shopping mall, a local event, or neighborhood community center. This usually involves purchasing photos and perhaps giving some of them at gifts to close relatives. It could also include purchasing color coordinated outfits prior to the visit.
Gift shopping - from shopping online, going to the mall or even going on a shopping trip out of town, gift shopping is an entire season, usually starting with Black Friday (the Friday after Thanksgiving,) and ending the day before Christmas.
Holiday party season - November through the beginning of January is holiday party time. Some host their own parties for family and friends, or go to others home to celebrate. With this comes the need to purchase party supplies, food and drinks.
Hostess gifts - It’s customary to bring a gift to the hostess’ home, which could include a specialty food gift basket, floral arrangement, wine, or a gift set of some sort. If your hostess has children, you might also bring their children separate gifts.
School parties - For families with children in school, they are likely to have at least one school party to celebrate the season. This may require buying small gifts for the entire class, or bringing a food item for a party. Some parents will also buy a teacher’s gift to show their appreciation.
Charitable donations - Whether at your child’s school, your church, gym, or community center, Americans are likely to go on a shop just for charitable donations for families in need. For example, my children’s preschool had a food drive and gift drive.
Neighborhood events - Some suburban areas have holiday events, like breakfast with Santa Clause for kids, street parades, ugly Christmas sweater contests, and other festive events where bringing food or a gift is necessary.
Green Monday - an online retail industry term similar to Cyber Monday. The term was coined by eBay in 2007 to describe the best sales day in December, usually the second Monday of December. This year we saw a lot of online retailers like Target using this day to promote special deals.
Christmas Eve & Christmas Day - the main days for big meal celebrations and gift giving.
Boxing Day - Although Boxing Day is not widely celebrated in the USA, some do celebrate it, and even if they are not celebrating the holiday explicitly, many Americans do give small gifts to folks like their landscaper, house cleaner, baby sitter or nanny, hair stylist, and others who they hire out for services on a regular basis.
How is your brand or retailer connecting with consumers during the many mini-events throughout the holiday season?
Let me know by commenting below.
Since we’re on the topic of holidays, Green Purse PR creates an annual list of holidays, specifically for natural and specialty food companies. It’s called our Holidays List for Food Marketing. Click here to download our 2019 edition — a 15-page social media planning resource to ensure you’re aware of and leverage the most relevant holidays throughout the year.
- Lisa Mabe-Konstantopoulos, Founder, Green Purse PR
Shopping Along With Japanese Women
Upcoming Shopper Research in Japan During February 2019
Green Purse PR is gearing up for our upcoming travels to Japan to explore what products #GetInHerCart. During the month of February 2019, our CEO, Lisa Mabe, will be working on an already commissioned research project to explore how health-conscious Japanese women shop for premium grocery products at grocery stores in Tokyo.
Our project will include:
Market & product category insights from several grocery store visits
Shopper insights from shop-alongs with Japanese consumers (along with a native Japanese speaking translator.)
Since we will already be in the market, we’re open to conducting more shopper research projects while there. If you’re keen to better understand the Japanese market, from a consumer insights and grocery retail landscape, contact us here.
We’re so looking forward to exploring the food and grocery scene in Japan!
Photo Tour of MOM's Organic Market in Gaithersburg
MOM's Organic Market is an independent, family owned, natural foods retailer with currently 19 stores in the Washington, DC area, as well as Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. The newly opened store I visited is located at 10 Upper Rock Cir, Rockville, Maryland 20850. The address is technically, Rockville, but it's right on the cusp of Gaithersburg.
If you've not been to a MOM's store before, you're in for a visual treat if you scroll through my photos below. I've shopped at other MOM's locations in DC for many years and love it. With an emphasis on organic products, along with their mission to protect and restore the environment, MOM's curates exceptional products and delights shoppers with unique offerings they might not find anywhere else. This is a store you can truly feel good about shopping with.
This new Gaithersburg store has lots of wide open spaces, given that it's in the suburbs. It's the nicest MOM's store I've seen yet! One thing I immediately noticed was the focus on bees throughout the store. I love all things honey, bees, bees wax, and of course saving the bees, plus I've been doing a lot of shopper research on the honey category recently. See for yourself in my photos here.
If you're keen to learn more about the grocery retail landscape in America, consider working with us on a workshop. Our workshop, Making it in America: How to Enter & Succeed in the Diverse Food Retail Marketplace, is one of the sessions we teach most and is very popular amongst companies from outside the USA. Contact me, Lisa Mabe, for more details about our workshops and other retail related services we offer. We teach workshops, conduct research and plan or execute public relations programs for companies all over the world. I look forward to hearing from you. Contact us here.
- Lisa Mabe-Konstantopoulos, Founder, Green Purse PR
Shop and Learn | You Don't Really Know a Shopper Until You've Shopped With Them
Next time you're in the grocery store, take a peak into your fellow shoppers' grocery carts. It's fun to see what ends up in shoppers' carts, especially if it is your brand, or in my case, a client's product. By the way, whenever I do spot a client's product in someone's shopping cart, I almost always strike up a quick conversation with them. I usually carry coupons from my clients and offer them a few as a way to thank them for their loyalty. It's a nice touch point that often goes a very long way.
My perspective is you don't really know a shopper until you've shopped with them. That’s one of the premises that makes Green Purse PR unique and why shopper research is fundamental to all the public relations and social communications work we do. Being successful in your consumer marketing starts with understanding the consumer – identifying how they learn about products, how your products are likely to fit into their lifestyle and how to better serve their needs in order to create and maintain a connection (or relationship, if you’re lucky) with those shoppers.
What can you tell about the shopper from this look inside her shopping cart?
Maybe she is gathering ingredients to make a special meal. Perhaps it's for a weekend celebration, a dinner party, or maybe it's a work-week meal for her family. Whatever the case, it looks like she has kids, or a lot of cats, because that's a lot of whole, organic milk in there.
I frequently conduct shopper research, shop-alongs, with women all around the world. Each time I shop with someone, I take into consideration every single product that gets in her cart. Taking into account what products #GetInHerCart, is one of the ways our shop-along research helps us uncover insights that later help us intelligently build successful consumer PR programs.
Some of the insights we learn from shop-alongs include:
- What products catch her eyes, and what does not.
- What other products (besides yours) she is buying and how those may even be used together.
- Why she buys particular products over others.
- What third party certifications, verifications or ratings she may be looking for.
- How she connects, or does not connect, with brands and retailers.
- How your product fits into her lifestyle.
- How best to build and foster a relationship with consumers like her.
The list goes on and on.
Do you think it sounds smart to plan and implement a consumer marketing program or campaign without first bothering to do a little research on the very people who are hopefully going to buy your product? No; that's not smart at all, but that's exactly what a lot of companies do.
Be the savvy company that DOES invest in understanding its target shoppers, and gets things right the first time. When you do, the insights you learn and connections you start, will deliver value both in the short and for a long time to come.
- Lisa Mabe-Konstantopoulos, Founder, Green Purse PR
Want Green Purse PR to shop with your consumers and garner insights to help you better connect with health-conscious women?
I recently returned from a business trip to Sydney, Australia, where I used to be based. I was in town to speak at the Naturally Good Expo and Naturally Good Business Summit. While there I had a look at some of Sydney's grocery retail scene, including some of the stores I used to shop at when I lived in Sydney.
One of the stores I visited was Woolworths in Crows Nest. This 'Woolies' store just reopened in April 2016 after two years of major renovation. I shopped at this Woolies during my time in Sydney; last time I was here it was still being demolished. Now, $52 million later in redevelopment, it's a completely different store. Previously it was a very tired, soulless, one-level store -- the kind that's so unpleasant, you can hardly wait to get out of it. Now it's shiny, new and includes multiple-levels.
Below are some photos I took of Woolworths located at 10 Falcon St, Crows Nest NSW 2065, Australia.
Such a beautiful structure on the outside. Crows Nest is an adorable community, but it could use some updating. The new Woolworths helps modernise the community.
Main level includes lots of grab & go options.
Spotted several products featuring the Australian Certified Organic bud, Australia's most recognised organic certification amongst Australian consumers.
This Thomas Dux corner on the first floor made me sad. I'm glad Woolworths still managed to let the brand live on in some form, but I'm disappointed that the stand alone stores no longer exist. Thomas Dux Grocer closed about two years ago. There used to be an outstanding Thomas Dux right around the corner from here; it's now a different store, called About Life. Read my blog post, photo tour of About Life here.
Green Purse PR Founder & CEO, Lisa Mabe, wrote a new thought leadership article for the natural products industry now published on the New Hope Network's website.
What store employees tell customers about products can help or hurt sales. Here are a few things that manufacturers can do to help create awareness and encourage brand advocacy among retail staff.
We recently conducted shop-along research for the new Stopain Migraine brand. We identified a lot of useful insights such as: how shoppers with migraines learn about migraine relief products, where women look for OTC pain relief options and who are the influencers that impact their purchase decisions.
It will be interesting to see how many more companies will have certified organic products on offer during the Gulfood trade show coming up in Dubai 21-25 February 2016. Our client, OBE Organic, will be exhibiting at Gulfood, and is one of the brands responding to increasing consumer demand for organic beef, as well as high quality beef from Australia that consumers there know and trust.