Just the Berries

Just the Berries, Reintroducing the US market to the Cassis berry

For kids growing up in New Zealand, drinking black currant fruit drink is a way of life. But when Just the Berries launched its cassis berry (black currant) extracts to the Japanese market in 2003, it faced a problem: virtually no one there had heard of cassis berries or knew anything about the health benefits of the fruit.


“One of the founders of Just the Berries is Eddie Shiojima, a specialist in human health who was born in Japan but who spent most of his career in the US,” says Simon Tavendale, Just the Berries sales manager. “Through Eddie, we had business relationships in Japan and, because of the growing conditions, high quality of farming and extraction processes in New Zealand we produced some of the best cassis berry products in the world. Still, we had to convince the Japanese consumer that our products were nutritionally valuable to them.”

Part of the company’s strategy for breaking into the market was to partner with one of its customers and launch the Japan Cassis Association to educate consumers and promote the health benefits of cassis berry extracts. Another part of the strategy was to develop a range of consumer products such as fruit drinks, sweets, candies, and dried fruits that introduced consumers to the fruit and the taste of the berries.

“Our business focus is to produce extract powders that are used in a variety of nutraceutical supplements, functional foods and beverages,” says Tavendale. “But, by partnering education with the creation and marketing of specially-developed delicious consumer products, we broke into the consumer psyche. Now, over 80% of the Japanese consumers are aware of cassis berries and 40-60% are aware of the associated health benefits.”

The US consumer, says Tavendale, is also generally unaware of the virtues of cassis berries and Just the Berries plans to use a similar approach to enter the US market as it did in Japan. For starters, he says, the company has introduced a range of specially-designed consumer products including fruit drinks, infused dried fruit and nutritional supplements.

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