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Lotte to invest $1.2bn in Japan to satisfy tourists' sweet tooth

Ice cream, chocolate and candy are popular items among visitors

Lotte will expand supplies of such mainstay items as chocolate.

TOKYO -- Confectionery maker Lotte is planning about 130 billion yen ($1.18 billion) in capital investment over the five years through fiscal 2023 in Japan, expanding supplies of such mainstay items as ice cream and chocolate.

The company also aims to step up exports of Japanese candy, which is growing in popularity abroad as visitors buy it on trips here. Lotte will export its Yukimi Daifuku mochi glutinous-rice ice cream to North America, for example.

The spending figure will mark a 40%-plus jump from the five years through fiscal 2018 and hit a record level.

Over the next five years, production capacity will be raised at plants that make both ice cream and chocolate in the city of Saitama and Fukuoka Prefecture, as well as at a candy and gum plant in Saitama Prefecture.

Japan's confectionery market grew in the five years through 2017, thanks to demand from visitors and rising prices. Japanese sweets have become a standard souvenir, along with cosmetics and over-the-counter medical products. An estimated 80% of visitors to the country purchase candy, with chocolate goods enjoying particularly high growth.

Meiji and Calbee are also accelerating investment to increase production.

With its capital spending, Lotte aims to develop five brands with sales exceeding 30 billion yen around fiscal 2023. The company's biggest brand is Xylitol gum. It also positions such brands as Ghana chocolate and Coolish ice cream as key products.

Lotte was relaunched in April through the merger of the old Lotte with sales units Lotte Shoji and Lotte Ice Cream. The new company targets sales of 500 billion yen in the next few years, up 50% from the time of the merger.

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