Japan Focus: Asahi AI designs, Kirin INHOP's new hop drink launch, supermarket updates and more in our round-up

By Pearly Neo contact

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Asahi AI designs, Kirin INHOP's new hop drink launch, supermarket updates and more feature in this edition of Japan Focus. ©Getty Images
Asahi AI designs, Kirin INHOP's new hop drink launch, supermarket updates and more feature in this edition of Japan Focus. ©Getty Images

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Asahi AI designs, Kirin INHOP's new hop drink launch, supermarket updates and more feature in this edition of Japan Focus.

‘Objective’ creativity: Asahi pursues packaging originality over personalisation with its AI Creator System

Japanese beverage giant Asahi is using an AI-powered design technology to design product packaging with a focus on ‘objectivity’ and ‘originality’, as opposed to going with the general industry flow of creating personalised designs.

The technology is dubbed the ‘AI Creator System’ and was co-developed by Asahi with local tech developer Cogent Labs.

“Asahi has ownership of the AI Creator System, and we are currently installing graphics and package samples into the system so that it can learn even more about package designs,”​ Asahi PR Manager Kristin Chiu told FoodNavigator-Asia​.

Hop opportunity: Kirin subsidiary and Trinus co-develop vinegar drink containing matured hop extract

Japan-based co-creation platform Trinus has co-developed a new vinegar drink brand called Hoplus with INHOP, a subsidiary of Kirin Holdings, containing matured hop extract.Trinus works with Japanese manufacturers and brands to develop innovative products and launching it on its crowdfunding site to test interest. Hoplus will be manufactured by Saga Vinegar Co., Ltd, with matured hop extract sourced from INHOP.

Under the Hoplus vinegar drink line (200mL), there are currently four variations, in yuzu, orange, peach and grape flavours. There is about 1.1g of matured hop extracts per 100mL of the drink.

Trinus is currently taking pre-orders for Hoplus on its crowdfunding site.

The purpose of the crowdfunding is to test our marketing and verify the target audience​,” said Yumi Kaneko, public relations manager, at Trinus Corporation.

Japan retail report: Majority of supermarkets plan to increase processed and prepared food product ranges

Around half of all supermarkets in Japan have plans to increase their range of processed and prepared food products, followed by fresh fruits and vegetables and meat, according to recent reports.

The 2020 Supermarket Annual Statistical Survey Report was released by the National Supermarket Association of Japan (NSAJ) last month based on a survey conducted on its members. NSAJ comprises over 200 members from all throughout the country, including Kinokuniya, Meidi-ya, Ito-Yokado and many more.

Based on the report, the majority of supermarkets participating in the survey will opt to increase their food products range and decrease non-foods moving forward, with processed and prepared foods leading this decision.

“50.6% of survey participants said they would opt to ‘increase the number of SKUs in the future’ for processed and prepared foods, followed by fruits and vegetables at 36.2%, meat and meat products at 35.4%, and seafood and seafood products at 35.1%,”​ said the report.

No more leniency: Japan ends flexible enforcement of food labelling rules permitted after heavy rains disaster

Japan will end the flexible enforcement of food labelling regulations that were implemented after the country was hit by torrential storms leading to a series of floods and landslides back in July.

The Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF) has instructed various local authorities in charge of food labelling (Food Labelling Bureaus) that stricter enforcement will be put back in force as of November 23.

“MAFF along with the Consumer Affairs Agency (CAA) and the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare has been implementing the flexible operations and enforcement of food labelling standards since July this year [in an effort to] ensure the smooth supply of food to areas in Japan stricken by the heavy rains and disaster,”​ said MAFF in a formal statement.

“[In light of recent reports and updates], we have decided to end these flexible operations on November 23 2020 (second year of Reiwa) – [all food products] without proper labelling will now be subject to regular enforcement.”

Upcycled appeal: CRUST Group develops non-alcoholic beverage from fruit peels, outlines Japan expansion plans

Singapore-based CRUST Group has developed a new non-alcoholic beverage line using upcycle fruit peel, and hopes to launch into market by the end of the year.

CRUST is known for producing beer using surplus bread​ collected from bakeries and e-commerce platforms in Singapore, in a bid to reduce food waste and increase sustainability.

The firm substitute grains used in beer production such as barley and malt, with bread which contains sugars to convert into alcohol.

According to founder and CEO at CRUST Group, Travin Singh: “While bread and beer will always be our flagship product, we created a second beverage line with the same vision, to upcycle food waste by focusing on fruit peel and ugly fruits​.”

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