How Asahi got more women drinking RTDs
There have been a few hiccups along the way, but Asahi has finally found the key to selling RTDs to women: gender neutral packaging and crisp flavours.
Seeking new revenue streams to offset the shrinking beer market in Japan, Asahi has spent the past four years targetting female consumers with cockails in cans.
A report on consumer spending by the Consumer Affairs Agency released earlier this year noted that while there has been a decline in spending on beer, sales of canned cocktails and "chuhai" are increasing.
Chuhai is a word that combines the "highball" with "shochu", an alcohol made from rice, barley or sweet potatoes.
Surveys show Japanese women prefer the taste of chuai to beer.
The Japanese market for ready-to-drink alcoholic beverages, including canned shochu cocktails, grew about 70% over a decade to 168 million cases in 2016.
Asahi's first attempt to tap into the market was a "Dear Pink" series of cocktails, packaged in pink cans festooned with ribbonns and featuring strawberry, mango-yogurt and other fruit flavours. It failed spectacularly.
Women were unhappy with the gender stereotyping and also reluctant to buy drinks in cans, which were regarded as the domain of middle-aged men.
So Asahi went back to the drawing board and tested various designs and names on both women and men and came up with a black-and-silver canned drink called "Mogitate", which means fresh-picked. It also comes in less sweet flavours - lemon, grapefruit and grape.
"We tried to come up with a design and name that women would reach for, but wasn't too cute that it would turn off men," Tomomi Miyama, an assistant marketing manager at Asahi, told Reuters. "In the end, the design was kind of gender neutral."
Mogitate hit the shelves last year and has lead to to a 13% rise in Asahi's first-half sales of canned cocktails to 18.1 billion yen. Sales have reached around 9 million cases, the most ever for the company's canned shochu cocktails.
The company is aiming to increase its exports of canned shochu cocktails by at least 20% this year, to capitalise on the growing popularity of the drinks as souvenir purchases among Asian visitors to Japan.