Business / Corporate

Japan's energy drink makers look to women to reverse flagging sales

Energy drink makers are looking to perk up sales by launching products targeted at women and changing their marketing techniques to adopt to changing social norms.

Japan’s traditional energy drinks, also known as “genki dorinku,” are typically packaged in small, brown glass bottles. They were popular during Japan’s rapid postwar growth spurt but have since declined as the baby boomers retire.

The market for energy drinks stood at ¥177.4 billion ($1.6 billion) in fiscal 2016, more than 30 percent lower than its peak in fiscal 2001, according to research firm Intage Inc.

To halt the drop, drink companies are now targeting women more than ever.

Last year, Taisho Pharmaceutical Co. added a product to its mainstay Lipovitan lineup that replaces the well-known blue and white label with a pink one. The new product also has fewer calories and a peachy raspberry flavor.

TV commercials for the product now feature Atsuko Maeda, a former member of all-girl idol group AKB48, showing her in everyday situations such as working out or lazing around on a sofa, a far cry from the striving, muscular rock-climbing men who once epitomized the long-selling brand.

In April, Eisai Co. launched an orange-flavored version of its Chocola BB energy drink to strengthen its lineup for women.

“Japan is beginning to move away from the work culture of using energy drinks to get a boost so you can work late into the night,” said an official at a major pharmaceutical company.

As a sign of the times, Daiichi Sankyo Healthcare Co. has changed the slogan for its Regain drinks, which became known during the late 1980s bubble economy for the slogan “Can you fight for 24 hours?”

A public relations official for the company now says its latest product is targeted at people who want to “smartly manage work hours and achieve high productivity.”