When given a box of chocolates as a gift, how many layers of packaging do you have to go through before you reach the actual chocolate? If your answer is at least five, you’re on the right track. This adorable illustration says it best:
In Japan, the amount of packaging received for even a simple product can be shocking. This is especially true with food and snacks. In department stores it’s common for cookies, for example, to be individually wrapped and come in a box which in turn is in its own wrapper. The store that sold you those cookies will sometimes wrap that box in its own branded wrapping paper, then put the whole thing into a bag so you can carry it. If it’s raining, they may also give you an extra bag in case the first one gets wet.
There are a few reasons why this happens:
- Aesthetics are of colossal importance in Japan, and appearances are often as important as actual quality in many instances. If something isn’t wrapped up nicely, it is seen as an inferior product.
- Snacks are frequently purchased as gifts for coworkers. It’s easier to distribute these if they are individually wrapped.
- Branding is vital in department stores, where many similar stores compete for the same customers. The more packaging, the more people see your brand.
- Over-packaging is so ingrained in the Japanese consumer psyche it will never disappear.
If you’re bringing a consumer product into Japan, especially if it’s edible, you need to pay special attention to packaging. Here are a few considerations to make:
- How are similar products packaged in Japan? Exactly how many layers of packaging are included and what does it look like? You don’t want to have inferior or less packaging compared to other products of the same quality and intent.
- What elements of your current packaging design will carry over well to the Japanese market? Many foreign food products do not localise their packaging at all in order to retain their “foreignness”, but these typically do not have Japanese counterparts (e.g. maple syrup). But if the product is already familiar to the Japanese consumer, a re-design might be in order.
- How can you cheaply and quickly print and package your product? Will it be easier to do this in your country of origin or in Japan?
- Is your packaging recyclable? As wasteful as Japanese packaging habits are, upwards of 70% of waste is recycled in Japan.