Organic growth: Greek premium herbal tea firm Anassa coming to the boil in Japan
The brand is working with Japanese partner Kanazawa Daichi and has seen sales double to around 3,000 in the first quarter of 2022 since entering the market in January 2021.
Overall, the Japanese outfit has managed to sell 8,500 units of Anassa herbal tea in Japan.
Around 90% were in sachet form, whereas the balance 10% was in tin format, said executive manager Motomu Sugano.
“We aim to sell more (Anassa tea products) in Japan and trying to boost sales. Compared to Europe and America, the organic market in Japan is small. However, it is easy to introduce Anassa because consumers understand its quality,” said Sugano.
Export manager of Anassa Organics, Chrisoula Sotiriou, said that the secret to entering the APAC market, especially Japan with its strict regulations, was patience and having the right partner.
“We must be patient and have the correct partner. The tea market in Japan is in the development process and has potential. We are happy and honoured, and it is a relief to have them (Kanazawa Daichi) as our partner,” said Sotiriou.
A singular move
The two firms made waves in late 2020 when they announced an exclusive distribution agreement to retail premium Anassa tea products in Japan.
Consumers can purchase the herbal teas on Kanazawa Daichi’s website, department stores and supermarket chains, primarily as gifts for major occasions like Christmas.
Anassa Organics, founded in 2013 in Athens, exports 60% of its products, whereas 40% is for domestic sales.
Its various whole-leaf tea blends include 15 herbs, such as carob, mint, lemon balm, sage, chamomile and fennel. The herbs are sourced from six suppliers across swathes of Greek horticultural land.
Before this, Anassa managed to penetrate 18 markets, such as Russia, Australia, Singapore, South Korea and Hong Kong.
Its ability to enter several markets perhaps was due to its steadfastness in maintaining the Greek formulation wherever it goes.
“We will not localise our labelling and our product, so we will not blend with Japanese herbs. We will stay true to our unique Greek herbal formulation,” said Sotiriou.
Meanwhile, Kanazawa Daichi is an organic farm that produces and sells around 150 products, such as rice, vegetables, sauces, beverages, and wheat flour. The Anassa herbal tea line is its first imported product.
As hoped, the Greek herbal tea concept aligned well with the Japanese culture, said Sotiriou, noting that both firms have a similar client base.
Sugano added: “When I introduce Anassa at trade shows, the female attendees would go ‘Kawaii!’ and appreciate its packaging. The design is well-accepted in Japan.”
Partners in branding
Kanazawa Daichi is now developing a new gift box specific for Japanese consumers, mostly women in their late 20s to 40s and health-conscious older men in their 40s and 50s. Sugano is also actively exposing Anassa in various trade shows in Japan.
The Japanese team is even considering importing glass cups from Greece to enhance the consumer experience as to how Anassa sells its teas domestically.
Initially, the partnership aimed to optimise the gifting culture and ritualistic experience. The teas come with filters and wooden stirrers – an experience that Sotiriou likened to the various fine Japanese art and culture.
According to Sugano, the new gift box includes only sachets and is priced at ¥2,500 (USD$20). Before this, the normal gift box would include tea in tins and cost between ¥4,000 to ¥5,000 (USD$32 to USD$40).
“The new sachet gift box is an easier and more affordable gift for family occasions, such as visiting parents and weddings. We will be targeting the next wedding season, which will occur this June,” added Sugano.
Unique boiling points
Anassa’s main focus is to scale up without compromising product quality.
She gave the example of the Netherlands, which has 250 shops offering Anassa teas.
“We need more suppliers to fulfil this demand. Materials in the organic scene are scarce. Being organic also means we need to repeatedly test products for heavy metals and ensure they are clean.
“Hence, we work with various suppliers across Greece and urge them to switch from conventional to organic horticulture,” she added.
It is now examining opportunities in China by assessing the regulatory requirements.
Sugano and his team aim to sell approximately 20,000 units in Japan this year, such as through the Hankyu Department Store in Osaka, Kanazawa Daichi’s retail at the Kanazawa rail station and its e-shop. They are also targeting Japanese bigwigs such Isetan and Takashimaya to carry Anassa.
Sotiriou said: “For 2022, all our efforts will be channelled towards Japan, such as the new gift box and collaborations. It is (a) doable (feat).”