Aojiru, otherwise known as green vegetable juice in English, is a beverage made from barley leaves and is exceptionally popular in Japan and China.
Most of the manufacturers claim to source its barley leaves from Kyushu, Japan. Despite its ‘grassy’ taste, it has achieved critical success for the digestive benefits that it is said to bring.
The market size of Aojiru in Japan was JYP$52.9bn (US$485.7m) in 2012, according to statistics from the Yano Research Institute.
Amidst intense domestic market competition, Yamamoto Kanpoh has maintained its No. 1 position in Japan’s drugstores for nine consecutive years from January 2009 to December 2017.
Citing statistics from INTAGE, it recorded sales of JYP$3.7bn (US$33.9m) from Japanese drugstores in 2017, surpassing competitors such as Yakult Health Foods, Nipponyakken, and Taisho Pharmaceutical.
NutraIngredients-Asia recently interviewed the firm to find out more about the secrets behind its success and its future plans.
At present, the firm exports Aojiru to the USA, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Thailand, and Singapore, the company’s spokesman said.
He revealed that the firm aimed to export to Korea and Australia as well.
"From the research that we have conducted, we expect (good) sales in Korea and Australia."
Within Japan, the firm sells its “Young Barley Leaf Powder 100%” as a Food for Specified Health Use (FOSHU).
Some of the product's functional benefits included 1) boosting intake of vegetables 2) improving intestinal health and hence alleviating constipation.
Asked the factors contributing to its success, the spokesman attributed product quality and rich in taste as the main reasons.
“We think our good product quality and richness in taste (are reasons for its popularity). As a result of continuing our sincere and safe product creation, our ‘Aojiru’ sales rank No.1 in drugstore in Japan for 9 years in a row."
“Our ‘Young Barley Leaf Powder 100%’ is cultivated without agricultural chemicals, and uses only young barley leaves of the highest nutrition value. It is 100% additive free and contains no synthetic additives.”
The firm sources for barley leaf from contract designated farms in the New Zealand, Italy, and China.
The spokesman added that their consumers were individuals who were concerned with intestinal health, diet, and beauty.
A report from Euromonitor in October last year showed that Yamamoto Kanpo continued to show strong growth in 2018, due to the success of its Aojiru.
“Compared with other Aojiru products, the performance of Yamamoto Kanpo Seiyaku’s Aojiru is particularly strong, as its main distribution channel is drugstores,” the report added.
Aojiru craze in China
Elsewhere in China, Chinese firms are also on the rush to produce its own versions of Aojiru.
Moses Group is one of the most prominent Chinese firms producing Aojiru.
It launched its first Aojiru product in 2015 and two years later, its sales have exceeded RMB$3bn (US$437.6m).
Last October, it also signed a deal with China National Economic and Technical Development.
An investment of RMB$2.9bn was pumped into materialising six projects, including increasing the production of Aojiru, the Chinese Trade News reported.