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Meiji trying to hit Asia's sweet spots

TOKYO -- As Japanese confectionery maker Meiji increases its presence in the rest of Asia, it is experimenting with different sizes, pricing and marketing strategies in its attempts to find the sweet spot in each market.

     This spring, some 4,000 Singaporeans lined up for complimentary snacks being handed out to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Meiji Seika (Singapore). Representatives of the subsidiary were happy with the turnout.

These Meiji products are available in a Singapore supermarket.

     Meiji's main products in Singapore include Hello Panda, released in 1991, and Yan Yan, released in 1989. Hello Panda is a panda-shaped, chocolate cream-filled biscuit, and Yan Yan is a biscuit stick with a creamy dip.

     These items "are being sold at almost every major supermarket in Singapore," said Hideaki Negishi of Meiji's International Business Division.

     Japanese brands have power in the rest of Asia, thanks to the perception of high quality. But that is not enough. Naoki Kawamata, who is in charge of product development at Meiji, said it is important to develop products that meet the needs of each market. This makes it essential to tune prices, content amounts and marketing to the characteristics of each market.

     In 2011, Meiji entered India, which has a population of more than 1.2 billion. The company's sales have been steadily increasing.

     However, it's not easy to persuade Indian retailers to handle Japanese products. Sales representatives must first win the trust of store owners. To do that, Meiji flies Japanese sales representatives to India every month. The representative stay for two weeks, trying to ensure that Meiji products penetrate the market and maintaining close contact with their Indian counterparts.

     Meiji recently repackaged its Hello Panda treats in India. The snacks had been selling for 70 rupees (about $1.23) -- a bit expensive for the average Indian. So Meiji began looking into what the optimal content amount and price might be. Earlier this year it began offering smaller bags of the confection on a trial basis.

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