The certification program of Japanese Food and Ingredient Supporter Stores Overseas
Interview of Suppoter Stores city’super
More than 1300 types of Japanese products
Firmly committed to selling all quality products down to lesser known regional specialty goods
Shanghai / China
A Unique Product Lineup through Direct Import
The Hong Kong-based City Super Group opened its first city’super outlet in Shanghai in the Pudong New Area’s Shanghai IFC Mall in 2010. The comprehensive supermarket chain selling imported foods and miscellaneous goods from around the world has since expanded, with store openings in Shanghai Times Square and iapm Mall, and the fourth store recently opened on July 28, 2017, in the new commercial facility, HKRI Taikoo Hui, located close to West Nanjing Road Station. We spoke to the senior head of the marketing division, Mr. Takaki Yano, who was involved in all of the city’super store openings in Shanghai.
“We are sourcing and providing high-quality food products and goods from all over the world regardless of whether they are from the West or East,” says Mr. Yano. Through direct import via the City Super Group’s trading company, city’super has been able to build a unique product lineup from famous brands to rare specialty products from different regions of the world.
From Staples to Rare Products—Never Give Up
In terms of food items from Japan, there is an extensive lineup of condiments, dried noodles, and sweets that total more than a thousand items. In the condiments section, there are staple products such as “Iwai’s sesame oil” and “Daisho Yakiniku no Tare,” as well as rare and unique products. Noodles are sold with other noodle brands from the Asian region, and looking at Sanuki udon alone, there are as many as 14 different types. In the sweets corner are “nori chips” from Yamamoto-Noriten, which has a local agency in Shanghai, and traditional Japanese confectionary and Japanese sweets. Some of the selected items such as arare rice crackers and konpeito sugar candies are products of private brands.
Royce chocolate and Quolofune castella, for which city’super has sales representative rights in China, have a dedicated corner with company staff selling the products. Yano recalls that Royce “struggled to sell at the beginning when it was not so well known. Because the best-before-date was short, costs kept mounting.” However, with a strong conviction and through perseverance, the store continued to carry the brand, and customers began to recognize the quality, taste, and value of the products and started to buy them. “When you are dealing with good-quality products, you will always succeed in selling them if you take your time and do it the right way. Based on our experiences in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Shanghai, we are making strenuous efforts every day and sparing no effort to sell our products.”
Juices and Japanese Sake Found Only in city’super
Around 150 types of beer and juices; around 100 types of Japanese sake, shochu, and liquor; and around 70 types of frozen food products from Japan are also available. Ringo Work from Aomori Prefecture produces city’super-original apple juice, which dominates the end display. Also in the staple products corner, there is a variety of juices such as Sowakajuen mandarin orange juice from Wakayama Prefecture that are not found in any other store in China. Eighty percent of the alcoholic beverages from Japan are directly imported. In the case of Japanese sake, in order to ensure quality, it is sold in a refrigerated state. According to Mr. Yano, “From the dispatching at the time of exporting until the point of sale, we take the utmost care to maintain it at the proper cool temperature.”
Japanese Rice Really Does Sell
A wide range of Japanese products are popular: products by Royce, Quolofune Castella, rice, juices, dressings, and condiments. There are four or five varieties of rice such as “koshihikari.” In comparison with Japanese rice varieties produced in China, even though there is a price gap, Japanese rice enjoys a high level of customer trust, meaning that it “really sells.” Among Japanese sake varieties, Dassai from Yamaguchi Prefecture is popular, but according to Mr. Yano, “recently the people in China are becoming more versed in sake and tastes are becoming diversified.” On the merits of dealing in Japanese products, “because the quality and taste is good, and the safeness level is high, these products will surely be popular around the world.”
Promoting Products by Taking Advantage of Store Displays and Events
Displays are put together for seasonal suggestions in promotional areas located outside the entrance and to the side of the condiments section, and in addition to these, “local fairs” are held several times a year for different Japanese regions. “Serving suggestions” are also made by displaying associated products together. Effort is also being put into taste testing and demonstrations by Japanese manufacturers. Manufacturing companies from different regions participate in these events; for example, “Manten” from Saga Prefecture holds taste testing and sales of sesame six times a year. According to Mr. Yano, “When they are held multiple times throughout the year, sales during regular times slowly go up.” In addition, initiatives such as cooking classes using dedicated in-store spaces and Japanese sake taste testing events are also getting good reviews from general participants.
The Desire to Deal in Japanese Meat Varieties
When asked about Japanese products that city’super would like to deal in the future, Mr. Yano points out the small number of fresh foods and livestock products permitted under food import regulations. “The handling restrictions in China for American beef varieties have been relaxed for the first time in 14 years. It is a real shame that Japanese meat products are not allowed. In order to expand exports of Japanese products to China, there needs to be a relaxing of the many food importation regulations in China. A push from the Japanese government would also be helpful.”