By Richard Turcsik
Some of our readers may not be familiar with
Meiji. What can you tell us about the brand?
Ken Vlazny: Meiji is the number-one confectionery brand in Japan, manufacturing hundreds
of products across a wide variety of supermarket
categories, including candy, yogurt and other dairy
products. In the U.S. we have three products: Hello
Panda, a bite-size crunchy shell with confectionery
crème available in Chocolate, Vanilla and Strawberry,
each embossed with a panda in a sports theme; Yan
Yan, 2-ounce containers of biscuit sticks that the consumer dips into crème available in Chocolate, Vanilla,
Strawberry and Strawberry Double Crème flavors; and
Chocorooms, unique, bite-size mushroom-shaped
biscuits with a smooth cap available in Chocolate and
Historically, our products have been sold in Asian supermarkets and we
are now expanding distribution to the mainstream supermarket channel.
Hello Panda and Yan Yan are manufactured in our state-of-the-art plant
The VP of brand sales at Meiji USA
talks about the iconic Japanese
confections company’s expansion
into mainstream U.S. supermarkets.
in California, while Chocorooms are manufactured in Japan. In the U.S. Meiji also owns the D.F.
Stauffer Biscuit Co., headquartered in York, Pa.
What are some of the key changes you are
witnessing in the confectionery category?
Leading confectionery companies are chang-
ing their packaging formats from laydown bags to
standing pouches for better branding and merchan-
dising. Meiji’s Hello Panda is already there. Our
stand-up 7-ounce pouch is resealable and packed six
per easy-to-merchandise tray. Meiji’s Hello Panda’s
unique combination of confectionery crème and a
crispy shell makes it a perfect addition to the candy
set. It’s familiar in flavor, but unique in shape, texture
and appeal. Each piece is imprinted with a sports fig-
ure, which appeals to kids and adults alike.
What are some of the challenges in the
That which makes us unique – our crème and shell
combination – also raises questions about where we
should be merchandised. Hello Panda is packaged to
perform in the mainstream confectionery set. This section is frequently located in the store’s interior and we
all know consumers are opting to shop the perimeter.
Thus, the category challenge is getting consumers to the
center of the store. Meiji Hello Panda can provide variety and unique-
ness to a confectionery section for consumers seeking mainstream
tastes in a unique form.
With its 2-ounce grab-and-go cup, Yan Yan is also perfect to merchandise as an impulse purchase at the front-end, appealing to both
children and adults.
What key trends should retailers be on the watch for?
Consumers continue to seek great-tasting, versatile snacks that are not
messy, can be eaten on the go, are shareable and that the whole family
loves. Meiji’s Hello Panda 7-ounce pouch satisfies all of these needs.
What will you be doing to introduce the Meiji line of products
to mainstream American consumers?
We have year-long digital advertising campaigns around our Meiji
products, and we negotiate with retail accounts for account-specific
activities. That can include store openings, promotions, sampling and
other consumer promotion tie-ins.