Japan and its 125 million residents represent $1.2 million in sales a year for the Leclerc Group. It’s a demanding, unique market where Leclerc maple leaf cookies are considered a premium product and a gift for any occasion.
If you know anything about Japan, you know that people exchange gifts more frequently than in other countries—it’s a well-established custom. Leclerc’s maple leaf cookies are considered a luxury product here. They are popular for gift-giving because Japanese people tend to be crazy about maple syrup. The Tradition maple leaf cookies made by Leclerc in Canada are exported directly to Japan in their original packaging with only one slight change—the list of ingredients is included in Japanese on the side of the box. “Japanese people like for the packaging to be Canadian. It’s an import for them and it’s important that they can see that,” says Julie Therrien, a Vancouver-based exports director for the Leclerc Group.
But Leclerc isn’t just selling maple leaf cookies in Japan. “A dozen Leclerc products are currently being exported in all,” says Julie Therrien. “We make maple leaf cookies for a high-end retail chain, which sells them under their house brand.” Even though it’s for a private label in this case, having the Canadian look is still very important. Japanese people put a lot of stock in the container. “The presentation is just as important as the product,” says Julie Therrien. “They are avid travelers and bring back all kinds of trends from their travels, but ‘Japanify’ them before putting them on the shelves.” That is the case with the Kit Kat chocolate bar, considered a luxury product and available in multiple flavors on the Japanese market. “Japan is like our world recreated within their world,” says Ms. Therrien.
Japan has very stringent requirements that exporters like Leclerc must follow. As Julie Therrien explains, “To get a product approved by the government, the questions are more detailed [than in other countries] and certain ingredients may be rejected or taxed.” One example is the rice used in the granola bars of a private label produced by Leclerc at the Tennessee facility. “We use specific rice for this product, which is distributed by our client in Japan,” says Ms. Therrien.
In all, about ten products, including maple leaf cookies, five other varieties of Célébration cookies, and Choco brand cookies are exported to Japan, in addition to the private labels made by Leclerc. These highly sought-after imports appeal to consumers and meet the highest standards in this hard-to-penetrate market.