Jumping on the hojicha bandwagon: Canadian start-up eyes North American and Asian markets

By Tingmin Koe

- Last updated on GMT

Hōjicha Co launched two loose leaf tea products last month.
Hōjicha Co launched two loose leaf tea products last month.

Related tags Green tea expansion Canada

Foreseeing that hojicha will become one of the most popular tea varieties, Canadian start-up Hōjicha Co is devoting its resources to sell only hojicha products.

For a start, it is eyeing the North American and Asian markets.

Just last month, it has launched two loose leaf tea products – Hojicha Dark Roast and Hojicha Gold Roast. The former is a premium grade green tea, while the latter is said to produce a deep, smoky and sweet taste.

The sourcing of tea leaves and packaging process are entirely completed in Kyoto.

Asked the reasons for focusing on the North American and Asian markets, Francois Mathieu, co-founder of Hōjicha Co told FoodNavigator-Asia​ he believe that “it is inevitable that hojicha will become one of the next biggest tea trends in the coming years.”

“We are interested to play a leading role in accelerating the adoption of this relatively new product in the US and Canada,” ​he said.

As for Asia, their products are available in Japan, China, Hong Kong, and Singapore, where a strong demand for hojicha exists.

“We also made the decision to distribute our products in key parts of Asia where there is existing demand for hojicha, and where consumers are already educated.”

Hojicha is a type of Japanese roasted green tea that originated in Kyoto in the 1920s.

It is made up of leftover tea leaves, stems, stalks, and twigs that are roasted over charcoal.

The rising popularity​ of hojicha has fuelled new product developments in Japan, ranging from ice-cream to pasta.

Last year, about 90 hojicha drinks and hojicha-flavoured food products were launched in Japan, according to market research firm Intage Inc.

The popularity of hojicha may even surpass that of matcha, said an industry analyst. 

“The hojicha boom in Japan may quickly spread internationally and could overtake matcha in the near future,”​ said Mitsue Konishi, senior innovation analyst of consumer at GlobalData.

Future products

Loose leaf products will remain as the priority for new product launches in the short term, while bottled drinks and tea powders may be launched at a later date, Mathieu said.

The start-up plans to launch additional new products in the coming months.

At present, sales of products are entirely web-based, but there are plans to move into retail distribution in early 2019.

Health benefits

Hojicha is said to produce multiple benefits, ranging from reducing cholesterol, aiding weight loss, and improving oral health.

For instance, hojicha improves oral health as it contains epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), which helps to prevent cavities and bad breath from forming.

The roasting process also removes almost all of the caffeine content in green tea. 

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