Major beverage companies are revamping their green teas. Almost all major famous brands such as Suntory Beverage & Food’s “Iemon” and Coca-Cola Japan’s “Ayataka” were renewed. Inexpensive private brands (PB) are selling at their best in the past five years, and sales at the major players are down almost entirely. It is believed that price-sensitive customers are flowing out, and the brand strength will be strengthened to put a stop to this before the busy summer season.

■ Lowest sales since launch

“Record low. Sales as well as internal staff go together to create the sales floor in the store. Anyway, we will do everything we can.” Seiji Tada, general manager of brand development at Suntory Beverage & Food, doesn’t hide the person’s sense of crisis.

In 2023, the sales volume of the mainstay product Iyemon fell to 57.4 million cases (equivalent to 24 500-milliliter bottles per case), a 7% decrease from the previous year and the lowest since its launch in 2004. It launched a renewed product in March 2024, marking the 20th anniversary of its launch. The volume of tea leaves has been increased by 1.5 times, the largest ever, and the amount of matcha in the blend has been tripled to create a more umami and intense flavor.

■ Fear of losing shelf space to PB

Behind the rush for renewal by the major players is the rise of PB. PB products are independently developed by retailers such as convenience stores and supermarkets, and are inexpensive because they reduce manufacturing costs by placing large orders with manufacturers. After major beverage manufacturers decided to raise prices in 2022-2023 due to soaring raw material costs, the price difference for a 500-milliliter plastic bottle is now several tens of yen.

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