'Eye-catching': Morinaga revamps Hi-Chew packs to advance US business

By Douglas Yu

- Last updated on GMT

Terry Kawabe, Morinaga America’s COO and senior VP
Terry Kawabe, Morinaga America’s COO and senior VP

Related tags Marketing

Morinaga America (MA) has redesigned packs for its entire Hi-Chew candy line as it looks to grow US company sales 400% in the next five years.

The California-based MA is the national sales company for Hi-Chew. It is a subsidiary of Japan-based Morinaga,

Hi-Chew hopes its new packaging can greatly increase its distribution in 2016.

Terry Kawabe, MA’s COO and senior VP, told ConfectioneryNews the new packaging is a 14-ounce bag, and it’s the first product from the company’s new production facility in North Carolina.

The new bag contains a mix of foil-wrapped Hi-Chew sticks, with individual flavors such as green apple, mango and grape.

New package to attract more young customers

Kawabe said MA's old Hi-Chew pack design faced multiple challenges.

“Our challenges include how to stand out on shelves and present a cohesive brand and product image, as well as what we need to do to attract young people, our primary customers,” ​he said.

Kawabe said the new materials used in Hi-Chew’s packages deliver a brighter, shinier, and "eye-catching"​ look.

“Since we blend fruit juice into Hi-Chew, we decided to emphasize fresh fruit images. We’ve also adopted an enhanced logo for people who don’t know Hi-Chew, a new tagline ‘Sensationally Chewy Fruit Candy’.”

Hopes to repeat Asian success in the US

The top executives of Morinaga in both Japan and America have agreed on several goals for 2016, according to Kawabe.

“In coming months, we’ll be vastly expanding our distribution channels in the US. The new North Carolina factory will continue to expand, and we’ll be introducing more new packages as well as several brand new products.”

However, MA is still in the process of designing these other new products, and it won't disclose what the new products will look like for another month or two.

Asked how Hi-Chew will compete with other companies in the chewy candy category, such as Starburst and Mamba, Kawabe said Morinaga can achieve the same results in the long run in the US, since the firm already holds its own against successful brands in Japan and the rest of Asia.

Euromonitor found Morinaga was the leading confectioner in Taiwan in 2014, and its Hi-Chew was popular for its high juice content and sometimes the vitamin C add-ons promote a healthier confectionery image.

The chewy candy category has seen impressive growth, according to Kawabe.

“Fortunately for us, we see that young people are far more open to new brands, especially those from Asia… so we believe that our expanded product line-up will deliver continued growth.”

New strategies to expand business

To gain and hold prominent positions on store shelves, as well as to drive consumer demand are MA’s business priorities this year, said Kawabe.

“We’ll be focusing on raising awareness in all markets. We’re backing our sales growth with increased marketing support through our partnerships with professional sports teams and a national sampling program.”

MA’s major distribution channels include high-profile retailers, such as Costco, Safeway, and Walgreens. “But we’ve been fortunate enough to secure many others,”​ Kawabe said.

Even though Kawabe declined to share his company’s market share and sales figures, he said the sales have grown exponentially in the past five years.

“Within the next five years, we expect sales to grow 400%.”

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