Can eat and play, but why it does not smell good in China?

“Tear open a small packet of powder, pour it into a finger-sized cup, then add a little water and gently stir, a glass of self-bubbling cola is complete.” In addition to the cup is a little small, from the appearance alone, even the details, this “mini-coke” is also enough to fake.

Can eat and play, but why it does not smell good in China?

This toy, called “food play” in Japan, is somewhat similar to the Chinese children’s favorite “play house,” but the difference is that the food play itself has both eating and playing attributes.

It is this kind of fun and operability that is widely accepted by children and adults, so that after decades of development, food play can occupy a place in Japan’s very mature toy industry.

According to the Japan Toy Association statistics, the size of the domestic toy market in Japan in fiscal year 2017 was 800 billion yen, of which food play was 43.2 billion yen, while in that year, the population data released by the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare was about 127 million. It can be seen that the Japanese are very willing to spend money on “play”.

In recent years, in Japan for decades popular food play also fire to China. Especially after the explosive growth of short video, so food and play has the opportunity to quickly out of the circle through channels such as Jieyin, Taobao, Xiaohongshu and B station.

So, how did the food and play market develop in Japan? What is the current situation of the food and play market in China compared to Japan? Are there any opportunities for Chinese companies to enter the food and play circuit?

Breakthrough under homogeneous competition

Food toys first originated from Japan, and the English name is “Candy Toy” or “Candy Food”, which literally means candy toys.

In the middle of the last century, homogenization made the competition in the candy industry in Japan enter the stage of “involution”. In order to enhance the characteristics of their products, some candy companies chose to include very low-cost plastic toys or cards in their products in order to break out.

Since then, some food companies also began to follow suit, but some of them are no longer satisfied with simply stacking products and toys together, but through the design of food not only has the function of food, but also can provide the joy of DIY homemade, food play was born.

As Japan’s fertility rate declined and competition among toy companies began to intensify, they sought breakthroughs in growth, and food and play became an excellent category because of its two functions: eating and playing.

Can eat and play, but why it does not smell good in China?

The addition of toy brands has broadened the track of food and play. Not only are the product categories richer, but the consumer groups have also expanded from the original younger children to adults with more spending power.

“The initial introduction of food and play to the Chinese market was by companies in Taiwan, China, because they were influenced by Japanese culture earlier.” Chen Wei, founder and CEO of the collectible toy brand 52TOYS, told New Retail Business Review that one of the representatives is Unity’s Little Raccoon instant noodles, whose hero cards included in the instant noodles used to be popular among the post-80s group.

In Chen Wei’s opinion, there are three main reasons for the rapid development and longevity of food games in the Japanese market.

First, the Japanese food and toy industries were both in a mature stage, but the competition between the two industries was fierce, and when food and toys were combined, they could find new breakout points and growth points across industries.

Second, Japan’s convenience store system is relatively developed, the original can only be sold in specialized channels after the combination of toys and food, sales channels will naturally expand to the convenience store system, in Japan, the convenience store consumer crowd is very wide, and is not limited by age.

Third, the early start of Japan’s animation culture, mature IP is very much, such as the Chinese people know “robot cat” “seven dragon ball” “Detective Conan” “the blade of ghost extinction”, etc., these IP for toy companies to enter the game and develop a series of food play provides excellent material and creativity.

Today, there are dozens of players active in the Japanese food game circuit, which can be roughly divided into three main categories, the first category represented by food companies, such as Meiji (Meiji), Morinaga, the second category represented by toy companies, such as Bandai (Bandai), Re-ment, and the third category is a comprehensive enterprise, such as Kanebo (Kracie).

Over the years of competition, Japanese food and toy companies have also developed their own characteristics and in doing so have attracted consumer groups of different ages and hobbies.

In general, food companies generally produce food games mainly to eat, to play as a supplement, the target group of such food games is usually young children, while the toy companies food games are relatively advanced, they usually appear in the form of scene series or figures, and some will also be combined with well-known IP, the scarcity and collectibility of its creation is more popular with adults.

Can eat and play, but why it does not smell good in China?

The “Health” Concerns of Food and Games

When Jia Jia was 3 years old, she and her parents traveled to Japan and saw all kinds of food games in convenience stores for the first time, and was instantly attracted to the elaborate burgers, doughnuts and sushi.

Jia’s mother, Ms. Liu, still remembers that Jia stuffed 24 boxes of food games in her suitcase back home. In about two months, the 24 boxes of food games were consumed, but Jia Jia’s interest continued.

At first, Ms. Liu could only replenish the goods by proxy, but later, Tmall, Jingdong, Boxing and other e-commerce platforms began to sell Kanebo’s food games, and it became much easier to buy.

However, after entering elementary school Jia Jia gradually lost interest in food and play. Ms. Liu said, “First, the child has grown up, too simple to play so that she does not have a sense of novelty, the second is that the food in the food play contains coloring, flavoring, etc., and eaten especially sweet, feel less healthy.”

In fact, with the maturity of consumer minds, Chinese parents are increasingly concerned about the health and safety of food, especially children’s food.

The results of a special survey released in June 2019 by the Machimang Research Institute show that 39.9% of parents will consider the nutritional properties of snacks as well as safety when shopping for snacks, with 18.3% of them also checking the nutrition content list on the product packaging.

In an interview with New Retail Business Review, Bing Dai, product manager of children’s snacks at Liangpin Puzi, said, “Modern parents pay more attention to their children’s hands-on ability and parent-child relationship, and they have a strong demand for products that can be eaten and played with. But at the same time, they are also very careful about food safety.”

Food and play then encountered a “health” problem. Parents are worried about whether the food ingredients in the food play are safe enough. Will the consumption of these sweet to snooze food games increase the risk of obesity and the contraction of teeth? Is the toy model in the food game a food safe product?

In May last year, Liang Pin Puzi launched its children’s snacks “Liang Pin Xiao Xi Xian”, officially opening up its own children’s snack track. On June 1st of this year, Little Food Fairy launched a food and play product – enjoy the bucket, the extremely child-friendly sand dredging bucket contains five healthy zero-added snacks, after sharing snacks with small partners can also play together with water digging sand.

Can eat and play, but why it does not smell good in China?

At present, there are no well-known food and toy enterprises in China, and the Chinese food and toy industry is in its infancy. Generation Bing said that the development of food and play for the Little Food Fairy is also in the fumbling stage, and the biggest challenge at present is how to find a high standard toy brand, to better combine safe food and toys, and to provide innovative products for consumers.

Opportunities and challenges go hand in hand

Unlike younger children whose demand for food and play is more oriented to eating, there is a group of adults whose demand for food and play is not in eating, but only in playing.

In the “food and play bar” of Baidu posting bar, there is a group of high-level players who are keen on scenes of food and play. This group of people collect more Bandai, Re-ment food games, and like to exchange through the circle of posting, Douban group. They like to match and set the scene by themselves, and then take photos and upload them to enjoy the fun of food games.

In addition to the different functions, collectible food games are much more exquisite than imagined in terms of design and workmanship. For example, a refrigerator food game, the door can be opened and closed, you can even put down milk, beer and eggs and other food games inside.

In addition, some of the popular Japanese anime IP cooperation food game, will also attract anime fans of cross-border pursuit, which is also the toy brands are happy to see.

In idle fish, some brands of food and play sets sold at different prices, cheap tens of dollars, with IP food and play products sometimes need to spend a thousand dollars to buy. In Taobao, Re-ment’s latest launch of a Snoopy baking cafe food play set, priced at 309 yuan, not only need to pay a deposit first, but also wait nearly 2 months to get their hands on.

Obviously, when the food and play players from food to play ground from material to spiritual upgrade, need to pay more money and time.

“Everyone has a child’s heart in their bones, and toys are a very good carrier.” Chen Wei believes that with continued economic growth, people will certainly pursue spiritual release and satisfaction after their material needs are met, and the Chinese are no exception.

According to a white paper released by the China Toy Association, in 2020, the national toy retail scale will be 77.97 billion yuan, an increase of 2.6 percent over the previous year. Almost equal to the average annual spending of 56 yuan per Chinese on toys.

Can eat and play, but why it does not smell good in China?

Chen Wei said, from the development path of Japanese food play and China’s toy market, economic growth rate, China’s food play market space is very large. There is just one thing that must be noted, Chinese companies can learn from the development experience of Japanese food and play, but they must go their own way.

Last year, 52TOYS and Yili tried a cross-border, the two sides through the Kimmy&Miki and JoyDay core fun more co-branded form, let the fun and delicious collision, and achieved very good results. In Chen Wei’s opinion, this cooperation is not considered the development of food and play, but it can prove that cross-border co-branding is a good strategy in the early stage of entering the food and play track.

From the point of view of product development, food and toy enterprises have their own strengths, cross-border co-branding can lend each other; from the point of view of channels, food and toys different channel layout, can expand each other’s consumer groups; from the point of view of the brand, the industry head of the strong joint venture, can reduce the education costs when developing the market in the early stage of food play, and quickly break the circle.

The reason why Japan’s food and toy market has exploded with enduring and huge market momentum is that Japan has a unique toy consumption environment on the one hand, and on the other hand, the highly branded food and toy industries in Japan provide an excellent opportunity for the integration and innovation of the two industries.

In comparison, the Chinese market has the advantage of a much larger population base, consumption potential and a mature supply chain system, while the disadvantage is that the branding of the food and toy industries started late and to a lesser extent.

In addition, although China’s IP licensing business has been growing rapidly in recent years, there is still a significant gap between China and Japan in terms of cultivating its own IP and industrializing animation.

In the future, as a subcategory of the toy industry, Chinese food and play will grow a “Kanebo” from the food brand, or the birth of a “Re-ment” from the toy industry, it seems that we can only wait for the master of time to reveal the answer.

This article is from WeChat public number: New Retail Business Review (ID: xinlingshou1001), author: Tian Qiaoyun

Posted by:CoinYuppie,Reprinted with attribution to:
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