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Victorian Made Group lands juicy deal in Japan’s competitive beverage market

Victoria’s Made Group has made a triumphant entry into one of the world’s most sophisticated and competitive beverage markets.

Made’s Impressed range of cold-pressed juices are available across Japan after the company secured a deal to distribute its products in supermarkets and convenience stores.

This impressive achievement is due in part to Austrade, who provided the Dandenong manufacturer with market research, advice and partner introductions. The agency is rapidly scaling up its services to help agri-exporters under the Agribusiness Expansion Initiative.

“At this point in time, it’s hard to see how any exporter could make a successful market entry without Austrade’s assistance and advice,” says Luke Marget, Made Group CEO and Co-founder. “I’d encourage anyone exporting to any market to make use of Austrade’s services and support.”

Identify a gap in the market

After researching food trends in Japan, Export Manager Phil Roberts identified that Made Group’s products potentially filled some gaps in the market. He sensed an opportunity and asked Austrade to conduct preliminary research. The results convinced him there was an opening for Made Group.

“We found the Japanese cold-pressed juice market was at least five years behind the Australian market,” Roberts says. “Japanese consumers are currently paying top dollar for cold-pressed juices.

“There was a gap we could fill: we could offer cold-pressed juices that are available on the shelf and at a similar price to a regular juice.”

Use Austrade as your ‘boots on the ground’

The onset of COVID-19 prevented Roberts from travelling to Japan to pursue the opportunity in person. That’s when Austrade became his ‘boots on the ground’.

The Tokyo office conducted market research, visited retail outlets, assessed competitors and obtained sales and pricing data. The agency also provided a list of distributors and wholesalers that proved there was strong interest in Made Group’s products.

“The Austrade business development manager did a lot of work on the ground to get us to a point where we could send samples to distributors,” Roberts says. “She vetted distributors and provided detailed feedback that helped us make an informed decision on who to go with.

“I’d advise any exporter to engage strongly with Austrade. Having someone on our side over there providing research, insights, support, translations and market advice was invaluable at a time when we couldn’t travel to the market ourselves.”

Look for a partner with connections

breakfast juice bottle with two glasses of juice

The first bottles of Impressed juices began appearing in multiple major supermarkets and convenience stores across Japan in January 2021. Made Group is currently negotiating with a major convenience store chain to stock its juices.

Roberts says it took around five months from engaging Austrade to securing the distribution agreement and sending their first shipment to Japan.

“The speed of it was unlike anything I’ve seen before,” Roberts says. “We were fortunate to land a distributor with a sales agent who knew all the major retail buyers in our category. He saw the opportunity to bring in cold-pressed juices and acted on it straightaway.”

Roberts adds:”Exporters should check if potential distributors have deep connections in the retail sector, and that they have the capacity to build your brand, particularly if you’re new to the market.”

Be prepared for a complex market

Japan is a rewarding but demanding market, according to Roberts.

“The Japan project was very challenging,” he says. “Japanese buyers have high expectations. There are also complexities associated with retail relationships, importing regulations, labelling and customs clearances.

“It’s a market with a very different way of doing business. You really need to do your research and be sure of your strategy. You have to treat Japan differently to any other market you export to.”

Made Group is looking into developing a different bottle for Japan and developing new flavours. “We’ve never done this for any other market but for Japan, we think it’s essential to follow the consumer,” Roberts says.

Cultivate existing markets

Made Group will continue to focus on Japan for the next 12 months. The company is eager to export more of its brands to the market.

Its success in Japan has “opened our eyes to Korea and we have started engaging with the Austrade team there,” Roberts says.

“We will continue to build our presence in existing markets – we’ll soon start exporting our Rokeby Farm brand to the Philippines. We are having discussions about expansion in markets we want to build like Hong Kong and Thailand. Our focus will be on cementing our brands in those markets.”

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