Blog: Japanese packaging excellence

Catherine Sleep | 20 December 2006

The hot topic on Japanese packaging innovation which we published earlier this week elicited much interest from our readers, and I thought you’d like to see this response from a visitor particularly well placed to comment on the Japanese packaging sector.

“Dear Catherine,

Michael’s absolutely correct in identifying packaging as a key success factor. Many Japanese FMCGs don’t have a marketing department per se but rather have a sales planning or product development group whose only job is to create new products. Once the product is launched they are working on the next innovation. This is one reason why there is “more” innovation than in other markets. Another is because the Japanese market is so big, a manufacturer can make money even by launching a product that exists just for a few months.

One point that is so important about Japanese packaging is the perception of freshness. Michael comments that any scratches or blemishes on the packaging will not be acceptable. True. The reason is the Japanese consumer judges the quality and freshness of the product by the outer packaging. It’s worth noting that many Japanese retailers have a very low tolerance for consumer complaints (some will automatically delist after five complaints), so manufacturers have to test thoroughly before launching to check quality is OK.

When I was managing an FMCG business in Japan, when importing from overseas we had A) product and packaging specific to Japan that had been consumer tested; B) special production lines in overseas factories for Japan; C) in some cases bulk import with repacking in Japan into Japanese specific packaging; and D) we always did test shipments in and around Japan as part of the launch preparation.

Another reason why there is more packaging innovation is the large number of co-packers in Japan which gives FMCGs a greater amount of innovation flexibility.

Rupert Sutton"

Rupert is an occasional contributor to just-food. The rest of the time he runs Exigo Marketing, a management consultancy specialising in marketing, sales and new business development in the FMCG and retail industries in Japan.

Check out Rupert's blog


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