Sales of Japanese 'dorinku-zai' tonics drop as younger generation opts for energy drinks

By Tingmin Koe

- Last updated on GMT

Energy drinks are gaining popularity among Japanese youth. ©Getty Images
Energy drinks are gaining popularity among Japanese youth. ©Getty Images

Related tags Energy drinks dorinku-zai Young people

'Dorinku-zai', a type of tonic drink in Japan, is facing a dwindling market as more consumers, especially the younger generation, are opting for energy drinks.

Akari Utsunomiya and Sachi Kimura, research analysts at Euromonitor International, told NutraIngredients-Asia ​that global energy drinks such as Monster and Red Bull in particular have had a successful performance in the last five years, owing to promotional tie-ups with sports events.

A mismatch between product image and consumer needs is another reason for the decline in the sales of dorinku-zai​.

"The dorinku-zai product image does not fit the values of younger generation. Dorinku-zai is highly associated with an energy boost or fatigue relief for the typical salary man working long hours,"​ the analysts explained.

“The Japanese work environment is currently trying to change from working long hours to taking more importance in work-life balance. The younger generation especially values this point and take importance in working more efficiently and smartly,”​ they added.

As such, the product is struggling to appeal to the younger generation who hold a different attitude towards work.

The only dorinku-zai products that are seeing moderate performance are those that come with ‘beauty’​ claims, containing beneficial ingredients such as fibre, vitamins, or collagen.

Children drinking energy drinks

A survey in Japan has found nearly one-quarter of junior high school students and half of the high school students consuming energy drinks for better concentration.

Japan Today recently reported on a survey conducted by Professor Shingo Noi of Nippon Sport Science University. The survey found that out of 1,096 students, 24.4% of junior high school students and 48.4% of high school students said they “habitually consume energy drinks while at school.”

“While the figures for elementary school students were fairly low, some teachers have confirmed that they have seen students drinking them too,”​ the report said.

However, the phenomenon of children drinking energy drinks has sparked health concerns.

Large quantities of caffeine can adversely affect the nervous system of children, as their brains are still in the process of development. This may increase the risk of hallucinations, delusions or seizures, Hisashi Kurihara, a former professor at Tokyo University of Social Welfare warned.

In May this year, the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) issued a recommendation​ that energy drinks should not target children or adolescents.

While Japan has no regulations or restrictions on the sales of energy drinks, an official at the Food Safety Standards and Evaluation Division of the Health, Labour and Welfare Ministry has told Japan Today that they are aware of the problem and "are considering measures."

On the amount of caffeine that energy drinks contain, analysts from Euromonitor said that the levels are typically between 150mg to 320mg per litre.

However, when compared to dorinku-zai, energy drink is not necessarily seen as the unhealthier option.

“Consumers select dorinku-zai due to its positioning and specific efficacy, rather than it being a healthy alternative to energy drinks,”​ the analysts said.

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