New Appproach to Penetrate Japanese Market

Updated at Saturday, 08 Jul 2017, 10:11
The Hanoitimes - Doors have been opened for Hanoian enterprises to access the Japanese market after many promotion efforts by trade authorities of the capital city.
As part of the visit by Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc to Japan early this month, a range of trade and investment promotion activities by the capital city of Hanoi was held, offering opportunities for enterprises of both countries and contributing to the success of the prime-ministerial visit. The major event among these activities was the Hanoian and Vietnamese Goods Week – 2017 held at the Japanese shopping mall Aeon. Those approaches by Hanoi city was deemed as novel to help enterprises penetrate the Japanese markets.
Ready to receive Vietnamese goods

For the first time doing marketing toward the Japanese market by participating in the Hanoian and Vietnamese Goods Week, a representative from Huu Nghi  Food Company was glad to know that his dragon fruit and mango have good  prospect in Japan as the quality is comparable to those fruit sold in Japan but the price is ten times cheaper. Besides mango and dragon fruit, lychee and mangosteen also have good chance to enter the Japanese market via Aeon department stores.
Also at this event, Vu Duc Hoan, director of a handicraft business found out that his handmade goods drew interest from Japanese consumers because of diverse designs despite his trademark is rather unknown.
Japanese customers interesting about  Vietnamese products at “Tokyo gift show 2016”
Japanese customers interesting about Vietnamese products at “Tokyo gift show 2016”
Vietnamese publications introducing Vietnam also attracted Japanese consumers.  Tran Phuong Thao from Thai Ha Books said she brought a range of books on the Vietnamese cultural and natural attractions in Vietnam. Her bilingual publications in English and Vietnamese were received with interest. Japanese publishing houses expressed their will to work with Vietnamese partners to release books about culture and tourism of both countries. They show interest in taking part in the II Mini Book Fair held by Vietnamese Publishing Association this year.

According to the Vietnamese Trade Representative in Japan, this country’s farm produce including fresh fruit and vegetable only meet half of the domestic demand. As the farm land acreage is decreasing, the import of those commodities in the future would increase considerably.
However, Japan is a highly demanding market with very high food safety standards. So, in order to export agricultural goods into the Japanese market, Vietnamese enterprises have to improve  the procedures of growing and processing from the selection of seeds, farming  to post-harvest preservation, packaging and delivering.

In addition, farm exports to Japan have to ensure quality consistency, reasonable price and timely delivery. Deputy Director of Hanoi Center for Investment, Trade and Tourism Promotion (HPA) said goods sold in department stores like Aeon at the same price as other retail shops. So Vietnamese enterprises when tendering to Japanese central buyers should not be illusioned of obtaining better price.
Sharing his experiences on bringing Vietnamese products into the Japanese market at “Vietnam – Hanoi Goods Week 2017”, the Director of HPA Nguyen Gia Phuong mentioned some Japanese customer behaviors which enterprises should know beforehand. “Among Hanoi specialties, people often think about green rice cake at Hang Than street.  Bao Minh Confectionery Company has introduced this products in Japan and received positive reviews from Japanese customers. However, they suggested the company not to  make the cake larger-than-bite size, as the Japanese eating customs focus on fine dining”. Other hints include the fact that  Japanese customers have the habit of seasonal change of products and prefer products which colors and designs inspired from nature. In spring they use handicrafts with soft and bright colors, whereas they prefer warm color handicrafts in  winter. The lucky numbers are 3,5, 7 and the unlucky ones are 4 and 8. In particular, Japanese does not like religion-inspired colors, as well as overweight and oversized handicrafts.

Product designs  are one of the shortcomings of Vietnamese companies. Many are currently focusing on exporting raw materials  without paying attention to brand building or package designs, especially for farm produce, processed foods or local specialties. 

Despites many challenges ahead to approach Japanese market, proactively seeking new market is proving a new way of trade promotion for Hanoi in opening export opportunities for Hanoi and Vietnamese companies. Not only  improving  the efficiency in entering potential markets, Hanoi efforts also enhance oportunities for goods and services of local businesses to increase export value.

However, Mai Anh also warned: “Many foreign distribution systems require strict standards for brands, packaging and product information. We have delicious and unique local specialties. However, without paying attention to standards, foreign partners  will not approve of our products going into their distribution systems.” During the “Vietnam – Hanoi Goods Week 2017” at AEON Mall, even though many Vietnamese products  are welcomed by Japanese consumers, but in order to penetrate the  market, enterprises have to shift from taking  goods to Japan to finding local  partners who understand the market demands”.

"Since the end of 2015, AEON has sold fresh mangos in our stores. From  the beginning of the year, the business continues put  Vietnamese dragon fruits, rice paper wrappers, dried pho, plastic goods, in our shelves their stores. In the near future, AEON will build a long-term plan to bring Vietnamese goods into AEON stores all over the world." Hide Takemi,  Director of AEON Food Development and Planning Department.

Ngoc Thuy
Le Nam