Healthy pivot: Kirin Beverage announces no-to-low sugar, calorie and immunity focus to drive sales growth
The maker of brands such as Kirin Gogo-no-Kocha (black tea), Kirin Nama-cha (green tea) and iMUSE (Lactococcus lactis strain Plasma beverages), aims to increase sales of sugar-free beverages by 10% in 2021
The firm saw its overall soft drink sales volume declined 9% last year, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, while Japan’s overall soft drink market saw a 7% decrease year-on-year.
Both Kirin Gogo-no-Kocha and Kirin Nama-cha saw sales decrease by 12% and 2% respectively. The only exception was iMUSE beverages which increased 136% in sales.
According to Katsura Muraoka, from Kirin Holdings’ corporate communication, sluggish sales from vending machines in offices and in convenience stores, as well as people refraining from eating outside, contributed to the drop in sales.
This year, Kirin Beverage is prioritising the Kirin Gogo-no-Kocha, Kirin Nama-cha and iMUSE brands. It hopes to grow the overall soft drinks business by 4% this year, with a 11% target for Kirin Gogo-no-Kocha, 6% target for Kirin Nama-cha and 28% growth from iMUSE beverages.
iMUSE – Flagship health brand
iMUSE is Kirin’s functional food brand comprising supplements as well as beverages. The company has even called it Kirin’s “healthy” flagship brand.
Its proprietary ingredient Lactococcus lactis strain Plasma, was registered as a food with functional claim (FFC) by Japan’s Consumer Affairs Agency in August 2020 for its role in maintaining immune function in healthy people.
Kirin hopes to make iMUSE products accessible to more consumers in 2021, to do that, the company will invest in advertising to increase awareness of the efficacy of Lactococcus lactis strain Plasma, Muraoka explained.
In addition, it will also strengthen in-store sales promotion activities.
Cut sugar and calories
In line with promoting a healthy lifestyle, Kirin Beverage hopes to develop more no to low-sugar and low-calorie products.
It will reformulate and repackage Kirin Gogo-no-Kocha products which are mostly straight tea, milk tea and lemon tea in March. The series also includes its sugar-free line (Kirin Gogo-no-Kocha Oishii Muto and low-sugar black tea line (Kirin Gogo-no-Kocha The Meister's)
Further to this, Kirin Beverage’s Fire coffee brand will launch a low-sugar (Fire One Day Latte Low Sugar) version in March, alongside a no-sugar variation (Fire One Day Black).
In addition to working on its immune, tea and coffee products, Kirin’s business and capital alliance with FANCL will see them launch a new beverage (Daily Amino Water) in April, following its FFC-recognised non-alcoholic chu-hi hyorei calolimit drink touted to reduce sugar and fat absorption, as well as a flavoured collagen drink last October.
The Daily Amino Water contains arginine (100mg), citrulline (100mg), citric acid (1,000mg) and vitamin C (500mg). The amino acids are supplied by one of Kirin’s companies, Kyowa Hakko Bio.
According to Muraoka, the low-calorie drink (16kcal/100mL) was developed based on the concept that people should consume amino acids on a daily basis.
Arginine is a common amino acid found in many energy drinks. Citrulline pairs well with arginine, and together, they are associated with vitality.
“We offer a new way of replenishing amino acids and water, which are constantly used up by the body everyday,” Muraoka said.
R&D for the product took about one year, with collaboration from both Kirin and FANCL.
The Daily Amino Water will be available through FANCL’s mail-order service and FANCL’s stores nationwide.
They aim to sell 800,000 cases (555ml x 24 bottles per case) in 2021.
Besides beverages, FANCL also recently launched a supplement (Meneki Support) for immune support in December 2020. The main ingredient is Kirin’s Lactococcus lactis strain Plasma.