Monitoring Flavour Changes In Japan's Confectionery Products

Monday, October 18th, 2021 | 687 Views

Japan has a rich history of introducing new products and flavours in consumer goods

By Jared Conway, Head of Research – Product Development and Training at Euromonitor International

Japanese consumers are often looking for new products and carefully evaluating their purchases. In the case of confectionery, shoppers are constantly looking for exciting new products given the country’s obsession with new flavours, concepts, claims and ideas in the world of consumer goods.  Understanding the popularity and changing preference of flavours by way of available products in the market provides a clear understanding of not only what flavours are currently resonating with shoppers but how that preference is changing over time.  In this article, we will examine what flavours are the most popular in the confectionery space alongside additional information such as prices and ratings. We will also examine how that preference has changed over a two year period.

In order to examine the changes in flavour offerings, the data for the following charts and analysis are extracted from Japan’s leading online retailers, such as Rakuten, Amazon and Lohaco, to name a few.  Additional data points extracted for this analysis include price points of products alongside ratings of those products.  As flavours are matched and tracked to individual stock keeping units (SKUs) online, by aggregating the data by flavour, we can also understand what are the price points alongside popularity and satisfaction of those flavours by way of the products that they are attached to.

Mint is most dominant flavour in confectionery but mango and other exotic flavours on the rise

Selecting flavours for products is an extremely careful decision for suppliers and their respective brand teams; companies need to tread a careful line between providing flavours that consumers are comfortable and familiar with, while also seeking to introduce new lines of flavours to remain relevant in the eyes of consumers and standout in a crowded market. Examining a sample of 370 products in August 2021 within Japan reveals that mint was the leading flavour with over 12% of the sample in the market, followed by lemon, and peach, as seen in the chart below.  The top 10 flavours accounted for 62% of the products examined indicating there is a relatively high concentration of flavours, as the remaining 37 flavours tracked only accounted for 38% of the products in the online sample.

Source:  Euromonitor Via

As tastes and preferences can change quickly, tracking the flavour presence by number of products available can indicate which ones are rising by way of supplier demand and which flavours are falling.  In the chart below, the top three flavours that increased in proportion over the two year time period were mango, peach and lychee, all gaining over 1.5 percentage points in share from the pre-pandemic period in August 2019 to the post-pandemic period of August 2021.   Meanwhile, more traditional flavours like orange, pineapple and strawberry declined the most in terms of share of products in the online sample.  This indicates that Japanese suppliers sought to provide more exotic flavours to consumers in the past two years based on shoppers’ preferences and demand.  Many of these flavours are also rich with vitamin C and other immune system boosting qualities.


Source:  Euromonitor Via

With regards to the rise in mango flavoured products, one such example is Saraya’s Artisanal Salty Candy line seen in the Via screenshot above (Article’s Main Image).  The product is designed for the summer and combines flavours with domestic salt to help prevent consumers from overheating in the high temperatures. As seen above, the company strongly showcases the mango flavour alongside the health benefits of the product, such as the amount of added salt to help provide relief to consumers in Japan’s hot and humid summers.

Satisfaction and engagement metrics of flavours drastically varies across products

Understanding the change in prevalence of certain flavours offers excellent insight into understanding supply driven changes in the market.  By also tracking the ratings and number of ratings of products and their corresponding flavours, the ability to aggregate the data shows what flavours receive strong engagement as well as satisfaction among those shoppers that provide feedback to e-commerce retailers.  For example, in the chart below (sorted left to right by the leading top flavours for August 2021) is the average number of ratings for each flavour. While mint and lemon were the most prevalent flavours in the sample and received the highest number of reviews per SKU, following those two flavours, consumer engagement by way of number of reviews significantly fluctuated.  Mango and grape products received the next highest level of engagement with nearly 10 reviews each, indicating consumers were quite eager to provide feedback for these flavoured products.

Source:  Euromonitor Via

Alongside understanding the number of ratings each flavour receives to assess engagement of products and their corresponding flavours, understanding the rating itself is important to be able to ascertain which flavours are receiving stronger feedback than others. Looking across all confectionery categories, mango flavoured products received the strongest feedback with shoppers rating these products 4.77 out of a 1-5 scale.  Given the average for all flavours was 4.3, several other leading flavoured products performed particularly well in this sample, with lemon, cocoa and mandarin products receiving high satisfaction scores.  Meanwhile, apple flavoured products received the lowest rating with an average of just 4.1.

Source:  Euromonitor Via

Finally, as companies look to understand how flavour preferences are changing, and which flavours to potentially focus on, adding pricing metrics can also give insight into how the products are being priced and marketed to consumers. By adding the weighted rating as demonstrated below, those products that are also receiving high satisfaction scores alongside their pricing metrics can be identified and potentially prioritised for new product development.  In the chart below, the number of flavours being examined has expanded to the leading 17 flavours that had at least multiple ratings observed during the August 2021 time period. Here we can clearly see not only which flavours received strong shopper satisfaction but which also have high price points: mango, mandarin, cocoa and almond flavoured products in particular scored well in both metrics and as indicated by smaller bubble sizes than flavours such as mint and lemon, which have more room to grow in the market.  Meanwhile products with flavours such as berry, and apple, not only received low satisfaction scores but have lower than average price points.

Source:  Euromonitor Via

Monitoring changing flavours and corresponding metrics is paramount

Understanding how flavours can change in a market alongside current perceptions by consumers can provide powerful insights into how an industry is changing.  While this sample could benefit by having a larger sample size over a longer period of time, by analysing 370 confectionery products available in the market for online Japanese consumers, it is easy to see how some flavours such as mango, peach and lychee are becoming more prevalent in the market and are also outperforming more standard flavours such as apple and mint, when it comes to consumer satisfaction.  Companies should carefully monitor how flavours are changing in their respective markets to ensure availability meets demand.

Note on Via dataset used for analysis:

Data for the analysis was collected in September 2021 for the time periods of August 2019 and August 2021.  Due to ongoing improvements to the AI-led product matching of stock keeping units (SKUs) to categories, suppliers, and brands, the size of the product assortment such as flavours analysed in Via both in general and for individual online retailers can change as we release new data improvements. In turn, this can lead to changes in flavour analysis as SKU sample size changes.

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