Hop opportunity: Kirin subsidiary and Trinus co-develop vinegar drink containing matured hop extract
Trinus works with Japanese manufacturers and brands to develop innovative products and launching it on its crowdfunding site to test interest. Hoplus will be manufactured by Saga Vinegar Co., Ltd, with matured hop extract sourced from INHOP.
Trinus had previously worked with Morinaga & Co on four new products, including a cheese snack and lozenges.
Under the Hoplus vinegar drink line (200mL), there are currently four variations, in yuzu, orange, peach and grape flavours. There is about 1.1g of matured hop extracts per 100mL of the drink.
Trinus is currently taking pre-orders for Hoplus on its crowdfunding site.
“The purpose of the crowdfunding is to test our marketing and verify the target audience,” said Yumi Kaneko, public relations manager, at Trinus Corporation.
It is hoping to reach JPY200,000 (US$2,000) in pre-orders by January 2021. At the end of November 2020, the firm had collected JPY83,000 (US$800).
The sum raised would be used to fund manufacturing, with the products expected to reach customers by February 2021.
After the crowdfunding campaign, Trinus will retail the vinegar drinks on its e-commerce site (Trinus Store) and Yahoo! Shopping.
Yumi said there was a possibility it may retail on INHOP's e-commerce site. Mid this year, INHOP launched its first consumer products, a matured hop extract gummy and tablet.
INHOP was established last year as a joint venture between Kirin Holdings and Dentsu to develop products based on Kirin’s matured hop extract.
According to Yuji Kaneko, president of INHOP, matured hop extract is still a relatively new ingredient in Japan, and consumer awareness is not there.
Besides INHOP’s consumer products, and Hoplus, another product containing matured hop extract is Kirin’s non-alcoholic beer, Karada Free launched in 2019.
“Increasing customer awareness is an important step for INHOP,” Yuji said.
One way is through food and beverages that are familiar to Japanese consumers, such as vinegar drinks. Vinegar drinks typically come in fruity flavours and must be diluted with water before drinking.
Vinegar is a key ingredient in Japanese cuisine used in sushi, vegetables, seafood and beverages. According to the Japan Vinegar Institute Headquarter, the production of vinegar in Japan grew 5% year-on-year from 428,200 tons in 2017 to 430,100 tons in 2018. The vinegar market size was about JPY39.1bn (US$375m) in 2018, according to Fuji Keizai Group.
“We formulated the product with the expectations of such a good taste compatibility and the health benefits of matured hop extract,” Yumi said.
Hoplus is said to have mellow bitterness from the matured hop extract, which complement the sourness of vinegar.
Hoplus beverages do not bear any health claims at present. Kirin is currently studying the health benefits of matured hop extract from fat management to cognitive health.
As hops are responsible for the bitterness and taste in beer, and generally too bitter to incorporate into food and beverages, Kirin Holdings developed a processing technology to reduce the bitterness in hops, by allowing them to age.
Trinus is hoping to target adult consumers and those seeking organic products.
The Hoplus range is made using organic fruit vinegar, organic fruit juice and organic honey.
According to Yumi, the yuzu and orange juice were sourced from the Miyazaki Prefecture, peach juice from Yamanashi Prefecture, and grape juice from both the Nagano Prefecture and the United States.
Available for domestic sales only, the pre-order price is JPY1,275 (US$12), while usual price is JPY1,500 (US$14) for a single bottle (200mL).