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How Chocolate Brand Meiji Gained Huge Success in Japan

8th September 2020

Lauren Sneyd, Library Assistant & Information Specialist, Bord Bia – The Irish Food Board

 This FoodAlert article will discuss how the chocolate brand Meji has gained huge success in Japan. From functional claims, to sustainable practices and sensory appeal and packaging, there’s lots of learning in here for Irish chocolate suppliers.

If at first you don’t succeed, try again:

Meiji, a food manufacturer of dairy and food products in Japan, launched a gourmet chocolate ‘’Meiji The Chocolate’’ in 2014. The product failed to strike a chord with consumers due to its lack of flavour. As a result, the company revisited its strategy and introduced "Meiji The Chocolate" once again in 2016 in a variety of eight flavours.

The bars contain a high quality cocoa appealing to health conscious consumers. The product received an overwhelmingly positive response within its first year of launch, winning scores of awards. For example, the International Taste Institute Awards, Club des Croqueurs de Chocolat, International Chocolate Awards, Great Taste Awards, the Academy of Chocolate, TopAwards Asia, and the Good Design Award over a period of three years (Meiji, 2020).

Meiji’s Winning Strategy:

1. Attracting Health Conscious Consumers:

“In Japan, consumption of dark chocolate is rising owing to its perception as a healthy food product” (GlobalData, 2020). With their high quality cocoa content, these bars naturally appeal to health conscious consumers. Meiji has capitalised on the opportunity to fulfill a consumer need for “guilt-free” chocolate.

There are lots of opportunities for chocolate bars as functional food with the development of innovative health-inspired products in the market. Meiji has a health and nutrition program, offering a variety of products that include health benefits for example, Oligosmart milk chocolate, a product that uses oligosaccharides to boost metabolism and the immune system. These initiatives highlight the ways that brands can develop and market chocolate as a health food with functional benefits (Meiji, 2020c).

2. “Bean to Bar” Strategy & Sustainable Practices:

Chocolate based on their "Bean to Bar" strategy has been a huge part of the brands success. This includes the entire process of chocolate production, from sourcing the raw materials to converting them into chocolate bar form with unique flavours. To maintain the quality of the bars, huge importance is placed on cacao sourcing. The company claims that it scouts the most secluded regions around the equator, "Meiji's cacao expert Mr. Hiroyuki Utsunomiya travelled to over 10 countries in search of the best cacao trees" (Meiji, 2020 b).   All of this has helped attract Japanese consumers who may be influenced by the source of their ingredients. The company also donate for the construction of wells, school supplies, and furnishings to support the cacao farmers and their communities. “By providing a safe environment for the farmers to continue sustainable agricultural practices, we are able to procure cacao beans of the highest quality used to make "Meiji THE Chocolate." Meiji believes that the happiness of everyone involved, from those who make the beans to those who eat our chocolate, starts with valuing the farmers” (Meiji,2020b).

3. Sensory Appeal and Packaging:

Meiji enhances the sensory appeal of the chocolate bar with unconventional shapes as opposed to the same pattern across the bar. Each bar is shaped as an assortment of pieces of different patterns and textures, which each piece offering a different "mouthfeel" and taste experience (GlobalData, 2020).

Meiji developed a unique packaging design, something new to the Japanese chocolate market. The packaging is made of uncoated craft paper creating a tactile sensation that represents traditional Japanese culture and arts for example, origami. To highlight the main ingredient, cacao, a foil stamp shaped as a cacao pod adorns the centre of the front label, etched with a distinct metallic pattern for each of the flavours (GlobalData, 2020).

The demand for luxury chocolates with higher cocoa content is gaining momentum in Japan. To capitalise on this, Meiji's packaging informs the consumers about the amount of cocoa content in each bar. This has gained traction and resulted in consumers fashioning smartphone cases, 3D art, chopstick holders, bookmarks and arts and crafts from it, and posting images of it on social media sites. The packaging is further likely to attract consumers who consider reusability an important feature of product packaging.

Key Takeaways for Irish Chocolate Suppliers:

  • Diall up your products health/functional credentials on pack to attract consumers who “want to eat, drink and live to optimise their body’s systems” (Bord Bia, 2018).


  • Develop guidelines for more sustainable practices from the production process to sourcing and let consumers know how your product can help them have a more positive impact on society and the environment


  • Share news and stories about your sustainable practices through various channels, such as product packaging, your company website and social media


  • Play with unconventional shapes to enhance the sensory appeal of your product and create “moments of discovery and delight that enhance the consumers day” (Bord Bia, 2018)


  • Use bold packaging to differentiate your product help it stand out from other brands on the shelf


GlobalData. (2020). Success Case Study: Meiji The Chocolate.

a)     AWARDS| meiji THE Chocolate| Meiji Co., Ltd. (2020). Retrieved 7 September 2020, from https://www.meiji.co.jp/sweets/chocolate/the-chocolate/en/awards/

b)    BEAN to BAR/FARM to BAR| meiji THE Chocolate| Meiji Co., Ltd. (2020). Retrieved 7 September 2020, from https://www.meiji.co.jp/sweets/chocolate/the-chocolate/en/bean-to-bar/

Adelstein, J. (2020). The Meteoric Rise Of Meiji: How A Japanese Chocolate Bar Took Over Instagram And Sold 30M Bars In 1 Year. Retrieved 7 September 2020, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/adelsteinjake/2018/01/18/the-meteoric-rise-of-meiji-how-a-japanese-chocolate-bar-took-over-instagram-and-sold-30m-bars-in-1-year/#4b8540f1203a

c)     Health and Nutrition | Sustainability | Meiji Holdings Co., Ltd. (2020). Retrieved 8 September 2020, from https://www.meiji.com/global/sustainability/healthier_lives/health_nutrition/


Bord Bia – Consumer Lifestyle Trends - https://www.bordbiaconsumerlifestyletrends.ie/trends/