Calbee Inc.’s granola snack had been around for 20 years, with no real change to its recipe or sales. Then a female marketing executive turned things around by pitching the cereal as a time-saver for a growing class of consumers just like her: working mothers.

The strategy clicked, revenue jumped and so did the snack maker’s stock price. Success coincided with a push by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government to boost women in the workforce. More companies like Calbee, whose chairman, Akira Matsumoto, is a vocal advocate of diversity, are starting to see working moms as a lucrative niche in a domestic market that’s shrinking overall.

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