Beyond Milk #5: Oat Milk And The Importance of Packaging Design To Japanese Consumers
Daniel Kwintner joined our table to talk about plant-based milk, the Japanese market, and his work on OATme’s packaging design.
Hello, Market Shakers!
OATme is the latest oat milk brand launched in Japan, and its unique eco-packaging will make you thirsty for more! Before we jump in, here’s more information about Daniel’s professional background.
Daniel has over 23 years of international experience as a Brand and Marketing Strategy Consultant. He was heavily involved in business development and strategic implementation of Design and Marketing innovation for numerous billion-dollar brands of Fortune 100 companies. Leveraging 15 years of immersion in Japan’s Food & Beverage industry, he has helped multiple Japanese companies export their products abroad and worked at Sopexa Japan as Client Services Director to support European and international key accounts for their 360 campaigns in Japan. Today, he’s running his own Brand & Consulting Design agency in Tokyo & Singapore, helping clients from around the world copping with their brand in Japan and APAC.
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Oat milk success in Japan is a matter of time
The pandemic opened the door to a greener diet.
Around the world, consumers embrace a greener diet for various reasons—the Earth, the animals, health. The past year has shown an increase in awareness for food sustainability and a sense of urgency to come up with new, better, and healthier food sources.
In Japan, where veganism is still very niche, animal welfare is not yet on consumers’ radar. Japanese people have a selective and narrow appreciation for nature, indifferent to species with little emotional value. Promoted by the government, meat consumption has increased in the past years while still below the United States or Europe. But today, Japan is at a tipping point, and the meat industry could be on the verge of taking a dive.
This ‘new normal’ brought by the coronavirus helped vegan trends and alternative products progress in Japan. The shift impacts the dairy industry too. As consumers seek to eat better food, plant-based milk found its way to the market as an alternative to milk.
Is that to say we’re more thoughtful about our food choices today?
The time is ripe for oat milk in Japan.
In past years, the Japanese soy milk market has been steadily growing and shows no signs of slowing down. But Japan already counts too many players for a newcomer to hope for a way in. Competition aside, soy milk brings up the issue of GMOs, about which Japanese consumers are pretty sensitive.
Next to soy, the almond milk market, which had explosive growth since 2017, is on the descending trend. Many companies jumped on the almond milk boom and did well, but on the consumer side, the craze is declining. Almond milk has a strong flavor, plus it isn’t the most sustainable option.
For foreign companies eyeing the plant-based milk market in Japan, oat milk is probably the best bet at the moment.
Oat milk has been available in Japan for a couple of years but was well under the radar until Alpro soft-landed in Japanese supermarkets. The market shows signs of growth, so time is now of the essence for players to grab this opportunity.
Oat milk has the potential to become the third milk choice, next to soy and dairy. With Japanese people consuming less and less cow milk due to health concerns, could the future be soy and oat?
A 100% Japan-made oat milk
OATme is a brand developed by Stephane Beaulieu, CEO of First Step Japan, in partnership with a natural ingredient development company in Japan. Sensing a demand growth, the company looked into bringing a healthier alternative to what’s already on the market. For them, the choice was clear, and it was oat milk all the way. The project started in summer 2020, and while total production isn’t quite there yet, it’ll soon hit the market.
Currently, the main ingredient is imported from an organic farm in China. However, First Step Japan plans to switch to Canadian organic farms shortly to make OATme a 100% Trusted organic product.
Indeed, on top of being an organic product, OATme’s packaging is an eco-friendly pack. First Step Japan could have gone for the more conservative Tetra Pak, but they decided to partner with ecolean packaging to try to be more sustainable. Choosing eco-packaging provides an edge, though, as it’s unusual in Japan. OATme has the power to trigger consumers’ curiosity.
The key to a good design packaging is to start from the consumers
Oat milk is a unique, natural, and excellent product for its fans. But for Japanese consumers already unfamiliar with oats, getting a new product in their pantry requires a bit of education. That’s when design packaging comes in, helping consumers understand what they are purchasing while not deceiving them either. Design packaging is an art and a science. It represents the last touchpoint of the brand before tasting it.
Interestingly, despite being manufactured in Japan, OATme purposefully looks like an imported product. First Step Japan seeks to convince new generations of consumers to embrace their oat milk. These consumers would typically stay away from a product with a very traditional Japanese look. But they would be open to tasting something new if they think it’s an imported product.
When it comes to their product packaging, foreign companies often miss the shot with Japanese consumers.
OATme’s design packaging story is a solid reminder that for a foreign company looking to make it on the Japanese market, getting to know Japanese consumers is critical to their success. Quite often, foreign companies come and launch their products with little thought about Japanese consumers’ perceptions.
But in fact, this type of messaging will not speak to Japanese consumers who don’t know much about that company’s story and the country of origin. They face many choices when they purchase food and beverage products, so brands looking to make it must bring a compelling story to the table. One that makes sense to Japanese consumers.
The product stays essentially the same, but companies must embrace an approach based on the local market’s context. It’s not what you present but how you present it that matters.
When working on a product design packaging, the key is to compare how the product is perceived and used in Japan versus other countries.
While OATme’s eco package could be puzzling for Japanese consumers, the key is to give information on what the product is about—a daily boost of calcium and fiber, even if that’s not real milk. The package is here to answer their questions right away, showing what is oat while not telling too much. Over time, education will pay off.
That’s all, folks!
Made with ❤️ by GourmetPro - Food & Beverage experts in Japan. Reach out for questions and comments!