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What did Native Sparkling learn from its Japan trial, and what next?

2nd December 2021 By Bridget O'Connell | | @foodtickernz

A successful first-phase validation trial in Japan has seen alcoholic seltzer company Native Sparkling secure shelf space in three supermarkets chains as it continues its APAC expansion.

Native Sparkling has secured shelf space at a trio of chains in Japan.

The Wellington beverage company has started stocking its product in supermarket chains HalloDay, National Azabu and Life putting it into a total of 38 stores mostly in Tokyo but also Osaka and Fukuoka.

This sees it graduate from online sales through retailer Rakuten where it has been on sale since May.

“We trialed the product to get a sense of what kind of consumer was after hard seltzer, as well as testing if the taste profiles worked plus the packaging design and concept,” co-founder Guy Hobson told the Ticker.

As a result Hobson said the brand would be positioning itself as a premium product leveraging the clean green image New Zealand Trade and Enterprise has developed for Aotearoa abroad.

“We will be sitting at a higher price point but offering something that is more unique when it comes to the flavour profile, as well as the fact we use a lot of real fruit rather than natural flavours.”

Native Sparkling will also be selling single cans rather than packs that are favoured by New Zealand consumers where the company sells 10- and six-packs in liquor stores and 24 cases online.

“In Japan we are able to tie in our story and the premiumisation of the product and what we do with conservation into one can, rather than trying to push volume into the market when a consumer is just looking for high premium one or two options to take home.”

The company supports 100 individual native New Zealand species through donations to various conservation projects.

Should the supermarket trial go well at the 38 stores in Japan, Native Sparkling would be looking to rollout across more of the combined 330 stores of the three supermarkets in time for next summer, when it also expects more entrants to join the maturing seltzer market in Japan.

With the expectation that some of “the larger players will enter in March 2022 and do some of the heavy lifting around what hard seltzer means, specifically for the Japanese context,” Hobson sees the low to no alcohol seltzer space opening up.

To this end, Native Sparkling’s NPD is currently focused on a no-alcohol range, which it would also launch in Japan and some of the other Asia Pacific markets it is exploring including Singapore and Thailand, as well as Taiwan and South Korea.

It was also weighing up whether it had the resource to put the no-alcohol range on sale in New Zealand, especially in light of an aluminium shortage, which meant anyone canning beverages currently had to “be as disciplined as possible around the opportunities that are being presented,” according to Hobson.

The company has also just hit its Q3 milestone of starting a trial in Australia where it is testing response to its flavours by selling 24-can mixed cases online through Craft Cartel.



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