The Journal The Authority on Global Business in Japan

In the United States and in countries around Europe, not-from-concentrate (NFC) juice, or “pure juice,” is most likely to be found on supermarket shelves. But in Japan, juice from concentrate still rules the roost. One company looking to change that is Brazil’s Natural One, through Natural Beverages Japan. They’ve already made a splash in their native country and are poised to have plenty of fans in Japan.

To find out more about Natural One’s background—and their expansion to the Japanese market—The ACCJ Journal spoke with (from left) Paul G. Guilfoile, president of Natural Beverages Japan and country representative for Natural One, Natural One Global CEO Rafael Ivanisk Oliveira, and Natural One CEO for Asia–Pacific Rafael Catole Demetrio.

It all started five years ago in Brazil, where Natural One got its start and has been rapidly growing in the NFC juice market at a pace of 30 percent per year.

Oliveira explained that, even in a nation that is known for its fruit, there are a number of reasons Natural One’s juice stands out. “We have very high-tech plants in Brazil that allow us to extract fresh­ness and flavor from the fruit without using any kind of preservatives. So, our juice is 100-percent natural. We are also constantly innovating. We have about 16 flavors currently available in Brazil. This has allowed us to have a diverse portfolio, and we are constantly adding to it. And we have farms where the apples and oranges that are used for our juices are grown, which allows us to ensure freshness and quality.”

Oliveira said that, after finding success in Brazil, Natural One’s long-term goal is to become a global brand, and they’ve got their sights set on South America and Asia. Demetrio added that, in the long run, Japan could be headquarters of the company’s Asian operations.

Of course, it’s a long journey from Brazil to Japan, and making sure that the product stays fresh in transit is extremely important. Demetrio explained that one of the ways that the company achieves this is by using a cold chain process, which ensures that the juice is kept at a low temperature from the time it is produced to the time it is sold.

Another secret, he said, is the use of nitrogen in the bottling process at their state-of-the-art filling plant. This forces out all the oxygen, which could cause the flavor of the juice to change. “This allows us to have the really fresh product on the shelf for the consumer, giving us eight months of shelf life with real juice that, when you’re drinking, tastes like something that someone squeezed in your home.”

Guilfoile explained that Japan, which has historically been the second-largest beverage market in the world, is a perfect location to spread the word about their juice. Natural One products are offered in this country through Natural Beverages Japan. “The people here love good juice and good beverages, and there’s a lot of innovation here.”

But there is some work to be done, Guilfoile pointed out. “Japanese consumers’ taste buds are adapted to a from-concentrate product. We’re trying to change the dynamics of that.” Natural Beverages is educating consumers by doing demonstration sales and distributing educational materials that explain the differences between from-concentrate and not-from-concentrate juices.

Currently, Natural Beverages has an NFC lineup that includes orange, guava, mango, and apple juice, and one from-concen­trate juice: grape. Guilfoile said that the brand has plans to expand the Japanese product range in the months and years to come.

The company’s juice can be found at 23 high-end supermarket chains around Japan, as well as at Tokyo American Club. But they’ll be available in more supermarkets soon, and with their impressive product lineup, Natural Beverages Japan has the potential to be a true tastemaker.

Japanese consumers’ taste buds are adapted to a from-concentrate product. We’re trying to change the dynamics of that.