There is much to celebrate for 124-year-old Morinaga. Since setting up shop in the United States 15 years ago, the top Japanese confectionery maker has seen its best-selling soft candy Hi-Chew become a huge hit among millions of Americans.
As of 2022, the company said American consumers have been consuming close to 5.5 million pieces of the fruit-flavored chewable candy every day, or almost 2.1 billion pieces every year.
Teruhiro “Terry” Kawabe, Morinaga’s Chief Representative for the USA and President CEO of Morinaga America Inc., attributes Hi-Chew’s popularity to the wide variety of flavors (more than 200 around the world) and its unique texture, achieved through its own technology.
Because of growing demand — notwithstanding a price increase and the COVID-19 pandemic — Morinaga America is looking to expand its U.S. operations.
“When we started here in 2008, our distribution was limited to Asian supermarkets, like Mitsuwa Marketplace and Tokyo Central. When Hi-Chew became more accepted by American consumers, we distributed it to local supermarkets. That boosted our sales volume in the country,” said Kawabe, who has been with the company for more than 30 years.
“Around 2014, we were able to get into mainstream channels like Costco, CVS Pharmacy and Walgreens. That’s why we need to set up a factory here in North Carolina,” he added.
Another huge factor in its success were Morinaga’s partnerships with Major League Baseball teams.
On the next moves for Morinaga America, Kawabe disclosed plans to introduce more flavors of Hi-Chew. Last February, it introduced Chargel, an energy gel made with no caffeine, gluten, artificial sweeteners or high-fructose corn syrup.
“Right now, we have 25 products and over 30 flavors available in the U.S, and we are continuously adding unique flavors to our growing portfolio. We have also launched products with less sugar and want to develop more products that cater to more people, like vegans. We want to satisfy the varying tastes of our consumers,” Kawabe said.