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Japanese firms putting more punch in tea

Publication Date : 01-10-2012


In an effort to serve up a better cup of green tea and meet changing tastes, companies are offering bottled varieties that are as rich as if they came straight out of a teapot.

Until recently, beverage manufacturers competed by removing the turbidity from tea to make it clear. However, turbidity is now the rage.

On Tuesday, Suntory Beverages & Food Ltd. plans to change the taste of "Iemon", the company's major tea brand, by adding powdered tea to make it turbid and richer. Up to now, it has been clear.

In the bagged green tea market, the turbid tea became popular around 2007 and the proportion of turbid tea in the market has risen to 30 per cent from 25 per cent before 2007.

A recent Suntory survey shows that changing tastes are not limited to tea. As long as the price is the same, consumers prefer richer tastes in soft drinks and alcoholic drinks in general, according to a company spokesman.

As a result of the survey, the company decided to tweak the taste of its flagship tea brand.

Coca-Cola (Japan) Co.'s tea brand "Ayataka", introduced to the market in October 2007, was the precursor of turbid tea. Although Coca-Cola lagged behind in the bottled green tea market, the company's green tea share grew rapidly thanks to Ayataka's popularity.

According to a survey by Inryo Soken, a marketing research company, Ayataka's market share in bottled green tea in 2011 rose to third place with 14 per cent, following Ito En's "Oi Ocha," which accounts for 39 per cent, and Iemon with 23 per cent.

According to Ito En's public relations division, the company still places importance on its clear tea.

However, as consumers who prefer a richer taste are increasing, the company launched "Nigori Maroyaka", a slightly turbid tea that was derived from Oi Ocha in March and "Futte Oishi 'Kyoto Uji Matcha-iri Ryokucha'" in July.

Japan Tobacco Inc. followed the trend by changing its major tea brand "Tsujiri" to a turbid type in March.

Kirin Beverage Co. is bucking the trend. An official said: "We have no plan to produce turbid tea. I'm sure we'll be able to keep customers who love our clear tea."

In the beer industry, Asahi Breweries kept up with changing tastes by switching from bitter and rich brews to "Super Dry" beer, which dominates the market.


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