According to latest report by GlobalData, Japanese-based snacks giant Calbee plans to invest up to US$1 billion over the next 3 years in mergers and acquisitions, equipment upgrades, and automation to boost efficiency and accelerate growth. The move forms part of the company’s plan to establish itself as a ‘Made in Japan’ brand in China and North America, diversifying its geographic footprint and offsetting the decline in the Japanese savory snacks market.
Around 60% of its investment will be allocated on M&A deals to expand international operations, along with refurbishments to plants and equipment across the board. The remaining 40% will be used to enhance productivity via automation and on environmental, social and governance measures.
Bobby Verghese, Consumer Analyst at Global Data said, “Through its iconic brands like Kappa Ebisen, Sapporo Potato, Jagabee, and Jagariko, Calbee is the leading savory snacks manufacturer in Japan, holding 16%-20% value share in the highly fragmented market. However, the Japanese savory snacks sector slowed down following the onset of COVID-19, which led to low retail footfall and supply chain bottlenecks. Moreover, health-conscious consumers limited their intake of unhealthy snacks to keep fit amid the health crisis.”
“Though the pandemic control measures were lifted in 2022, soaring inflation undermined the sector’s recovery. With more savory snacks manufacturers factoring in the rising raw materials and fuel costs into their product prices, Japanese consumers are curtailing purchases.”
According to GlobalData’s Q4 2022 consumer survey, 31% of Japanese respondents said that they are switching to cheaper brands, cheaper alternatives within the same brand, or cheaper retailers, considering the rising cost of living when it comes to purchasing savory snacks. As a result, value sales of savory snacks in Japan are expected to decline further by 1.8% CAGR over 2022–2027. Calbee can counteract the slump in its home market by tapping into the burgeoning and fast-growing Chinese and North American markets.
Mariko Kadosaka, Key Account Director at GlobalData Japan added, “Japanese snacks have gained immense popularity in China and North America in recent years, with an increase in the number of restaurants, particularly sushi bars, opening branches in these markets. Additionally, iconic Japanese snacks such as Pocky and Hello Panda, have gained more shelf space and visibility in overseas offline and online retail stores over the last decade. Celebrity chefs, television/webcast shows, social media influencers and bloggers, and the cult following for Japanese anime and ‘manga’ comics have also played a key role in making Japanese snacks trendy in China and North America. Mainland China and Hong Kong are already the biggest export markets for Japanese snacks.”
Verghese concluded, “Opportunities are rife for Japanese snack brands in these overseas markets, given that 32% of North American respondents and 30% of Chinese respondents in GlobalData’s Q4 2022 consumer survey said that they typically purchase savory snacks made by foreign/global multinational brands.”
Earlier this year, Calbee also announced plan to build a US$475 million plant in Hiroshima, with an estimated production capacity to churn out US$204.5 million worth of snacks annually. The facility is expected to be up and running by December 2024.