Japanese companies innovate in response to the ageing consumer

With the dramatic rise of the ageing consumer in Japan, and the resulting shrinkage of the domestic market, companies are having to respond with product and service innovations to meet the changing consumer needs.

For example, the ready-made food sector is booming due to the rise of single-person households and ageing consumers as reported here in Worldfolio.

Kewpie, a Tokyo-based company, began selling canned baby food back in 1960, now sees a new opportunity opening up in rapidly ageing Japan as parents who brought kids up on Kewpie approach their sunset years — what it calls “nursing care food” for the elderly according to the Japan Times.

Kewpie nursing products

The company says it’s on the brink of turning a profit on a range of pureed ready-to-eat meals called the “Gentle Menu,” currently sold in specialist sections of drugstores and a small number of supermarkets. Served in plastic pouches, they’re aimed at the growing numbers of elderly people who have difficulty chewing and swallowing, but crave the taste of favorites like beef sukiyaki.

Supermarket chain ItoYokado, owned by the parent company of convenience store Seven-11, has seen its sales of food for the elderly rise consistently over the past decade. It attributes that success to a decision to devote a special corner of its stores — and dedicated staff — to selling nursing care products including special foods.

Kokubo merchandising design

Kokubu, a Japanese processed food and logistics company, is another example of that shift to the elderly. Its Executive Vice President and COO, Akira Kokubu, admits he is always “looking towards the edge of society” in order to find new consumers in Japan’s shrinking domestic market.

But companies are naive if they think that to challenge to meet the needs of the ageing consumer stops with product R & D. It’s just the beginning.

Every step along the customer journey needs to be reviewed and adapted to meet the evolving physical, sensory and cognitive abilities of the ageing population.

Achieving this without alienating younger customers is the challenge and the essence of our Lifetime CX process.