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Friday, June 8, 2012

Food makers beefing up visitor tours


Japanese food makers are beefing up their visitor tours, hoping to tap opportunities to increase communications with consumers and pitch their products.

In recent years, companies are seeing a growing number of adults and families visiting their plants. Before, visitors were mostly schoolchildren on field trips.

Earlier this year, Morinaga Milk Industry Co. spent roughly ¥20 million to renovate the tour course at its Tama factory in Higashiyamato, Tokyo, introducing such new features as computer graphic images. The tour also allows visitors to compare the weights of milk bottles and experience cheese-making.

"We aim to make an impression on visitors through their five senses" with the renovated tour course, a Morinaga official said.

In April, jam maker Aohata Corp. opened Aohata Jam Deck, a dedicated visitor center, in Takehara, Hiroshima Prefecture, where the firm has its head office.

Osaka-based confectioner Ezaki Glico Co. this fall will open a visitor center in Kitamoto, Saitama Prefecture, its first such facility in the Kanto region.

With consumer awareness of food safety rising due to the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant crisis, "it is important to increase contacts with customers," an Ezaki Glico official stressed.

Last month, Sapporo Breweries Ltd. overhauled the tour at its plant in Funabashi, Chiba Prefecture, shifting from visits for primarily viewing equipment to a paid program that introduces its mainstay Black Label beer. The tour includes guides' explanations on ingredients and beer trivia.

"It's a good opportunity for customers to feel the flavor of beer," a Sapporo Breweries official said, underscoring the company's efforts to win back popularity of beer amid shrinking demand in the domestic market.

"More and more tour facilities are taking on a recreational flavor and becoming tourist destinations," said an official at Shobunsha Publications Inc., whose Kojo Kengaku factory tour guidebook has scored sales of 700,000 copies.

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