Convenience stores look to take bite out of doughnut market


Major convenience store chains are stepping up their fight for a bite of the doughnut market, following Seven-Eleven Japan Co.’s pioneering move to launch the snacks last autumn.

Lawson Inc. has introduced doughnuts at 600 of its domestic outlets, priced at ¥100 apiece. Heartened by brisk sales, the firm will boost the number of stores handling the product to some 8,000 as early as this summer.

Meanwhile, existing specialist doughnut stores aim to stay ahead of the competition mainly by promoting the fact that their products are freshly made.

Convenience store chain operators tout doughnuts as snacks that go well with the fresh coffee they now sell, another market that has expanded rapidly.

“We sell an average 120 doughnuts daily per store in Tokyo,” said an official at Seven-Eleven, a unit of retailer Seven & I Holdings Co. By this summer, the chain’s original doughnuts will be available at nearly all 17,000 Seven-Eleven stores across the nation.

This month, FamilyMart Co. started setting up a doughnut space in the bread aisle of its convenience stores.

While convenience store operators are piling into the doughnut market, existing doughnut chains appear calm, at least on the outside.

“We have no immediate plan to make any major change” in response to increasing competition from convenience stores, said Tetsuya Wada, head of Mister Donut operations at Duskin Co.

But informed sources say Mister Donut will take steps to shorten the time between frying and serving as early as June. The chain will fight back by featuring the quality and variety of its doughnuts, according to the sources.