Market insight in association witH
The power of probiotics
Immune-boosting categories see strong sales performance in Japan during the Covid-19 outbreak, according to GlobalData.
Probiotic products have been selling well in Japan amid the Covid-19 outbreak. According to Yakult Honsha year-on-year sales results, the sales volume of Yakult branded probiotic products increased by 11.5% in March and 10.3% in April 2020.
The company said that consumers are increasingly concerned about the spread of the novel coronavirus, and their interest in probiotics and promoting immunity has been increasing.
Meanwhile, Meiji Holdings also announced that sales of its dairy products, including yogurt, have been seeing positive growth during February and April in 2020, and the year-on-year growth rate registered 7.4% in March. According to the company, functional probiotic yogurt products are selling particularly well.
In Japan, yogurt and yogurt drinks are not the only probiotic products that have seen growth. According to the National Supermarket Association of Japan, Natto and other fermented products, such as kimchi, have sold significantly well in April.
Natto is fermented soybeans, rich in probiotics, vitamins and minerals, which is known as a superfood among Japanese consumers, while kimchi is Korean-style fermented cabbage.
Although Covid-19 cases in Japan are relatively low, the novel virus has spread throughout Japan. However, only one prefecture, Iwate, out of the 47 in the country still has zero confirmed Covid-19 cases. This has prompted media interest in how Iwate is addressing the pandemic.
One of the main reasons for the lack of cases could be the low population density. Iwate is the second largest prefecture by area size after Hokkaido, and just over one million people live there, meaning the area is nearly 80 times less populated than Tokyo.
The prefectural government also proactively took Covid-19 preventing measures, such as self-isolation, which helped to prevent the spread of the disease.
However, there are also other interesting statistics. The Japanese Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications collects the data of consumption of particular household products, including different food categories, at the level of prefectural capital.
According to this data, the average yogurt consumption by value per household, Morioka, the capital city of the Iwate prefecture came top among 47 cities between 2017 and 2019, spending nearly JPY 17000 ($158) per household every year.
For natto consumption, the city was second top in the country. Local nutritional expert, Kyoko Kimura, an associate professor of the Faculty of Nutritional Sciences at Morioka University, claimed that the high consumption of these products has been effective in preventing ‘general’ infections.
In Japan, dairy manufacturers in particular, are trying to capitalise on the growing popularity of probiotics, offering varieties of packaging types to meet different consumption occasions. For example, Meiji’s core functional Probio R-1 has released a large pack for increasing at-home consumption.
Probiotics are recognised as a healthy ingredient outside of Japan too. According to a 2019 GlobalData survey, 58% of global consumers say that probiotics have a positive impact on their health.
In the aftermath of Covid-19, health attributes will be even more influential on consumers’ food and drink purchasing decisions. Observing Japan’s case, probiotics will have great potential in product innovation.
For more insight and data, visit the GlobalData Consumer Intelligence Centre
Globally, foodservice has taken a hit as consumers are forced to stay indoors due to Covid-19. While some have shifted to increased delivery and collect models, foodservice operators are now up for the next challenge: long-term social distancing. In the meantime, if they gain social media notoriety, as well as curious customers coming through the door, then it is a win-win as this evolving sector looks to innovate to stay afloat.
Many of these unique and creative social distancing measures are first coming out of Asia, as the region has ‘reopened’ ahead of Europe and North America.
In Bangkok, patrons have started eating next to panda toys and cardboard dragons in order to maintain social distancing. Restaurant’s place the creatures in chairs diagonally from each other so that customers do not sit too close to each other. In China, customers are disinfected upon entry and utensils are sanitised at the table for full transparency, and to give patrons peace of mind over any safety concerns.
In the US, makeshift plastic sheets at a bar and mannequins seated at nearby tables may make for a spooky environment, however these measures also ensure that customers follow the rules.
These examples are ways to ‘nudge’ – in a not-so-subtle way – customers to take extra care and keep a distance from their dinner dates. This also limits time speaking closely to the waiting staff or miscommunication that can lead to dangerous contagious situations. Moreover, of course, it can be a playful way to remind people the pandemic is still happening, whilst allowing life to go on semi-normally.
While these examples still stick with the traditional restaurant model, some restaurants in Europe are building an experience around social distancing.
In Amsterdam, Mediamatic ETEM offers a four-course vegetarian menu in personal quarantine greenhouses. Customers are fully protected in glass enclosures looking out at the canal, with wait staff serving food while wearing gloves and facemasks. The restaurant has been a surprising success, with patrons finding the ambience to be a memorable experience.
In Sweden, pop-up restaurant Bord Ford En (‘table for one’) took isolation to the next level. Located in the region of Wermland, the ‘restaurant’ is a single table and chair in the middle of a field. The guest does not interact with the staff and the three-course Swedish meal is delivered in a basket by a rope attached to the kitchen. Launched in May and expected to stay open until August, reservations are full – only one guest per day.
While the Swedish example might have been more about an experience than a real solution to social distancing in the restaurant business, it brings up the new and relevant consumer behaviour as a result of lockdown.
As consumers are cooped up all day, there has been more value placed on self-care, slower lifestyles and looking inward. A restaurant for one could allow people to have a more introspective experience, away from the hustle and bustle of conventional restaurants. It also shows that thanks to the current conditions, consumers are open to new and novel experiences that keep them safe but also allow them to experiment.
Foodservice operators must understand that the ‘new normal’ does not just mean adjusting the status quo, it also means evolving and challenging norms and pushing boundaries of what the foodservice consumer is post-Covid-19.