Japan is, by value, the second largest retail market in the world after the US, with soft drinks alone accounting for 20,948 million litres in off-trade volume sales. It is also one of the most advanced countries in terms of packaging technology.
Recognising more than a decade ago the importance of being close to its customers in Japan, Sidel opened its office in Tokyo. The country was considered a market which would benefit from the value of Sidel's world-class equipment, services and people. With high engineering excellence and technology advancement, beverage producers in the country needed complete and future-proof solutions that could meet their demands. Such demands include a focus on downsizing packaging formats and lighweighting of bottles, particularly with the rise of the 'konbini' convenience stores which have increased in number to 56,820 in 2013. The limitations imposed on shelf space mean that innovative ways need to be adopted to offer smaller formats as well as adapting the supply chain to reduce the number of stock keeping units (SKUs) required.
Throughout its 10 years in Japan, Sidel has supported beverage producers with complete bottling line solutions and service support, meeting the high demands of the Japanese market through blow moulding machines, fillers, Combis, labellers and end of line solutions. The sensitive category of beverages has performed particularly well, with juices showing growth of 2.8% CAGR (compound annual growth rate) from 2009-2014. Over the same period, RTD (ready-to-drink) teas, a popular beverage in Japan, grew by 1.6%. To meet the food safety and hygiene requirements that are particularly high in a country in which sensitive products play such an important role, Sidel's dry preform decontamination technology Predis™ has proved an effective solution for many of the country's leading beverage brands.
Sidel Matrix arrives in Japan
In 2014 the company supplied its first Sidel Matrix™ system to a Japanese beverage producer - the most powerful solution yet in terms of performance, flexibility, cost savings and sustainability in PET bottling. The modular system was designed to challenge the conventions of PET production and to meet producers' needs, both today and tomorrow. The system includes blowers, fillers, the Sidel Matrix Combi and labellers and can match virtually any configuration customers want, with a higher level of performance and a lower environmental footprint. Another innovation is the new portfolio of Sidel Services™, which adds more value to installed equipment, beverage products and producers' bottom lines.
Eric Schaffner, Sidel's Managing Director for Japan and Regional Commercial Director for Japan and Korea, says: "The markets we serve are challenging so we have to ensure that the solutions we provide meet the specific demands of our customers. We know that we can learn so much more about those demands by being close to our customers and we have learnt a lot over the last 10 years. Japan often leads the way in packaging technology, adopting innovations which eventually filter through to Western applications. This anniversary is an important milestone for us and provides an excellent platform from which to continue to develop and explore the considerable opportunities that Japan and the surrounding regions present for innovative PET packaging solutions."
Customers visiting the company's offices in Japan can witness how Sidel can create value for their beverage business by being A Better Match for them, understanding the many contradictory demands placed on their beverage production. For example how can resource use be reduced, including equipment floor space, water and energy, while still improving product quality and driving down costs. These, along with many other challenges, can be addressed to create the optimum liquid packaging solution.