Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Want to Succeed in Japan? Heed These Tips

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Want to Succeed in Japan? Heed These Tips

Article excerpt

American automakers trying to break into the Japanese market face an uphill struggle. But that battle pales compared to one being waged over importing American food products.

Japanese consumer demands for freshness and purity - and Tokyo's layers of inspection procedures and regulations - make food importing nearly impossible for many U.S. firms operating in Japan.

But it can be done, if you know what you are doing, argues Merle Akio Ogawara.

"Coca-Cola is the No. 1 soft drink" dealer in Japan, Ogawara said. "It's a very good product, the company has very strong marketing abilities and they have deep pockets.

"But most important is that Coke adapted its products to the Japanese market," Ogawara said.

"As big of a company as it is, Coke knew that Japanese favor non-carbonated drinks. So, about 70 percent of the company's sales are non-carbonated and the biggest seller is a canned coffee called Georgia. . . . It's a cold or hot coffee drink sold in vending machines."

U.S. fast-food companies also do well. Kentucky Fried Chicken has about 95 percent of the market, Ogawara said.

Ogawara is president of J.C. Foods Co. Ltd., a successful Japanese pizza company, and vice president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan. She was in St. Louis last week to speak at a seminar entitled "The Japanese Market: Opportunities for Missouri Products" on the campus of the University of Missouri at St. Louis.

Ogawara was born in Hawaii, and has a law degree from the University of Geneva.

Even though her father was president of Pepsi-Cola Japan, when Ogawara went to Japan in 1964, she was unable to practice law. She was barred in part because she was a woman, but mainly because she was a foreigner. (It would be 20 years before foreign law offices would open in Japan.)

So she went into business, bankrolled by her father, Ogawara said.

"We manufacture frozen pizzas and frozen fish products," Ogawara said. …

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