Japan convenience stores set up nutrition advice services amid competition from pharmacies

By Tingmin Koe

- Last updated on GMT

Japanese convenience chain Lawson is dedicating a corner of its store to offer free-of-charge nutrition advice to consumers.
Japanese convenience chain Lawson is dedicating a corner of its store to offer free-of-charge nutrition advice to consumers.
Japanese convenience chain Lawson is dedicating a corner of its store to offering free-of-charge nutrition advice to consumers.

Its newly opened Sendagi-Shinobazudori store in Tokyo store offers nutrition advice desk, OTC drug sales, and a dispensing pharmacy, providing a suite of healthcare services within a convenience store. The store commenced operation on August 1. 

There are currently 17 Lawson convenience stores that incorporate nursing care and nutrition counselling desk​ which provide free-of-charge nutrition advice services.

Lawson is not the only convenience store to offer nutrition and healthcare advice in Japan. Competitor Family Mart is also providing such services.

For Lawson, the reason for offering these services is to cater to an ageing population.

Lawson president Sadanobu Takemasu said that the company aimed to resolve the community issues that arise “in an age where many people live to be 100​”.

The firm hopes to extend the service to 100 convenience stores, a spokesman from Lawson told NutraIngredients-Asia​.

As Japan has been experiencing a heatwave for the past weeks, some of the pressing queries that consumers had included what nutrition advice should I take note of during the extreme heat”​ the spokesman said.

Health theme

One of the growth strategies for Lawson, is to expand the number of health foods.

Besides developing bran bread and buns, it has also developed a lactobacillus-rich beverage with lower carbohydrates and calories.

Its sales of health food had grown from 60 billion yen (6% of all food sales) to 250 billion yen (25% of all food sales) from 2013 to 2016 and it aims to achieve a sales target of 380 billion yen by 2019.

Convenience stores Vs pharmacies

Convenience stores in Japan are facing tougher competition from pharmacies as the latter expands its offering of food product.

As such, convenience stores are innovating its range of services, such as providing nutrition and healthcare advice to attract customers.

According to Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI), the number of convenience stores is growing at a slower rate as compared to pharmacies.

The number​ of convenience stores was 56,374 last year, a 1.3% increase from 2016. On the other hand, the number of pharmacies was 15,197 last year, which was a 6.4% increase in the same period.

In addition, pharmacies are selling food products at a faster rate as compared to convenience stores. 

For pharmacies, the sales of foods product hit 1.6 trillion yen last year, which was approximately an 8% growth from 2016.

Its sales of health foods had also increased by 4.6% last year – slightly higher than the growth of 3.4% in 2016.

In contrast, the sales of processed foods had been slowing down for the past two years. Last year, the percentage growth in sales of processed foods was 2.6%, lower than the percentage growth of 4.9% in 2016.

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