More and more retailers and rice dealers are selling a variety of rice brands in a package in an effort to familiarize consumers with brands other than the ones they usually eat. Such packages are selling well, especially among people sending summer gifts.
In May and June, Izumi Co., which operates a supermarket chain in Chugoku, Shikoku and Kyushu regions, sold an assortment of rice brands given a special A rank by the Japan Grain Inspection Association. Although the product was available only for 22 days, sales of rice at the firm’s online shop in the first half of June was up 80 percent from a year before.
A selection of rice brands sold at an online shop of Murase Co., a rice dealer based in Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture, is also gaining popularity. The package is ranked third as of July 20 on the list of some 50 rice products offered by the firm.
Murase started selling the product after hearing from customers that they would buy an assortment which lets them compare the tastes of different brands of rice. Since many consumers tend to continue purchasing the same brand that they are accustomed to eating, an official in charge of Murase’s online shop says the company hopes consumers will try something different and, if they like the taste, choose to buy the brand the next time.
An Izumi official says many people bought the assortment as gifts. “We developed the product for people to enjoy comparing different tastes at home, but many customers said they want to send it to their children who live away from them,” the official said.
Kameta Shoten, an established rice dealer in Tokyo’s Sumida Ward, sells different types of gift assortments according to customers’ requests. “We are receiving orders from people who were given (the assortments) as gifts. (The popularity of the assortments) is leading to expanding our customer base,” says Kameta Shoten vice representative Toshiaki Ichinosawa.
Rice producing regions have also begun selling different rice brands in a package. JA Asahikawa, an agricultural co-op in Hokkaido, started offering two different assortments of small packages of rice in May. The packages were changed from paper bags to vacuum-sealed ones, and the new products are selling nearly nine times more than the previous sets, according to the farm co-op. Co-op officials say the product is sold mainly as gifts.
JA Iwaki Chubu, a farm co-op in Fukushima Prefecture, debuted a selection of vacuum-sealed small packages of pre-washed rice in March. The product, which was available at four JA stores in the beginning, can now be bought at seven stores in and out of the prefecture. Officials of the co-op say many people buy the products as gifts, adding that they hope its popularity will contribute to increasing sales of rice to be harvested this year.