Saturday, December 31, 2011

No. 17: Secret of the continued success of Yamato Transport (January 1, 2012)

Yamato Transport is the pioneer and all-time leader of the home delivery business in Japan with a share of 42.0%. When you look into Yamato’s activities, you will learn that constant and strenuous efforts alone to develop and expand the market allow a company to maintain the market leader position. Yamato started the home delivery service in 1976 and delivered 1.7 million packages in the same year, and it is supposedly to have delivered 1,400 million packages in 2011. 

After the March 11 disaster, Yamato established a system to save 10 yen from each package for a subsidy to purchase equipment and instruments necessary for fish processing in the devastated area. The company contributed more than 13 billion yen. Although it is clear that it will result in net loss in the current business year, it gave the highest priority to the reconstruction of the local industry. In another prefecture, it introduced an even faster delivery system in alliance with a local supermarket chain. An order the supermarket chain receives from a customer by 4:00 p.m. through its website is delivered to the customer the next day wherever he lives inside the prefecture. 

Yamato places the highest importance on listening to the opinions in the field. A total 55,000 deliverymen and staff members in the operation centers create ideas for new service under the company concept, “We not only deliver packages but also create customer satisfaction.” In another prefecture, Yamato established a system to receive malfunctioning home appliances, fix them, and return them to the customers in just three days in the fastest case. The company is developing repairmen to shorten the delivery time and reduce repair cost. This business now handles more than 10,000 home appliances per month.

Yamato is also energetically expanding the business overseas. Unlike western home delivery companies that entrust local partners with details of local operations, Yamato instills the Yamato way into the mindset of local people. A Chinese deliveryman cannot understand why he has to say “Thank you” to the recipient to whom he delivers a package. However, these kinds of people are now reportedly willing to say, “Thank you!” to the recipients.

The development of the home delivery business goes hand-in-hand with the development of information technology. Yamato never loosens it hold on applying IT to the business development. In Tokyo, it now can deliver an order to a customer inside Tokyo in just four hours in the fastest case thanks to its self-developed See-T Navi. The system enables a customer to take delivery of an order that he places midnight through TV mail-order program early next morning. The company is on the way to expand this system in other metropolitan areas.

The Yamato case tells us how important it is to make constant and strenuous efforts to segmentalize the market and create and develop customers in the well-established business domain.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

No. 16: Magazine market is shrinking consistently (December 29, 2011)

The magazine market will supposedly decrease to less than 1,000 billion yen in 2011 for the first time in 27 years. The annual sales are estimated to decrease 6-7% from the previous year to 985 billion yen in 2011. Annual magazine sales increased continuously after 1951 when the statistics began to be released and peaked at 1,565 billion yen in 1997. Subsequently, however, sales decreased 13 years in a row mostly because of the spread of the Internet.

The number of titles decreased to 3,453 in 2010 after it peaked at 3,652 in 2006. About 160 titles including information magazines and fashion magazines will be suspended or discontinued in 2011. A leading book dealer told, “With the spread of smartphones, the means that people use to get information are undergoing a radical change.” Although the decreased sales can partly be attributable to the distribution channels damaged by the East Japan Great Earthquake in March, smartphones are surely replacing magazines as a means to collect information among consumers. Book sales are expected to remain almost the same at 820 billion yen in 2011, making the total market of magazines and books decrease 4% from the previous year to 1,805 billion yen.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

No. 15: Fanuc doubles the production capacity of multijoint welding robots (December 22, 2011)

Fanuc started the operation of its new plant in Yamanashi Prefecture on December 20. With the new plant, the company doubled its production capacity of multijoint welding robots for vehicles production to 5,000 units per month. Thanks to the expansion, it can satisfy more than 40% of worldwide demand for multijoint welding robots. As a company policy, it does not plan to build a plant in a foreign country even in the current high yen period.

The president proudly proclaimed the ability of his company to overcome the current high yen period by enhancing the automation of production process. In fact, Fanuc has characteristically a higher in-house production ration than its competitors. The constant efforts to reduce production cost allow it to stay in Japan. The proximity between the R&D division and the production site is also a big factor because it increased the speed of product development. And the concentrated production also affects its results favorably. Fanuc recorded the highest consolidated net profit in its history for the half-year period between April and September 2011, besides maintaining the operating profit of higher than 40%.

Its rival, Yasukawa Electric, made an announcement to consider the production in China and other Asian countries as the first company to reveal the plan of overseas production. The world market of industrial robot is expected to increase 20% from about 140,000 units in 2011 to about 170,000 units because of the demand increase in China. As the market grows, the competition will intensify and the strategy on production site will become critical.        

Monday, December 19, 2011

No. 14: Who said opticians are only for myopic and hyperopic people? (December 20, 2011)

With the spread of the Internet, it is growing rather hard to quantify consumer behaviors precisely. Market research is no longer a mighty tool. Hunch and instinct are dangerous tools. However hard you may try to know in advance how much your product will be accepted by the market, no consumers can realize how wonderful your product is before they see and touch it.

JINS, an optician chain that focuses on low-priced eyewear, doubled its sales over the level in two years ago to about 15 billion yen. Given the fact that the current eyewear market shrank 30% from the peak, the results of this optician chain are rather striking. The president asked himself, “Is an optician for only myopic and hyperopic people?” He launched eyewear that blocks off blue light coming from the PC monitor supposed to deteriorate the function of the retina. He further prepared several kinds of unmagnified eyewear depending on playing scene for golfers. More than 10% of the visitors of this optician chain are neither myopic nor hyperopic.

He asked himself again, “Why does the price of eyewear depend on magnification, even though the price of shirts does not vary with body size?” In this optician chain, the price of eyewear does not vary with magnification. It varies only with the lens quality. These ideas let the chain grow business rapidly. For your information, the president is neither myopic nor hyperopic. Headquarters of this chain does not hold a regular meeting. Staff members get together and hold a meeting whenever they come across an interesting idea and discuss what they should do to create something new.

Consumers are naturally capricious. For example, McDonald's launched a hearty hamburger named Quarter Ponder despite the current health-conscious trend. It sells fast, while the hamburger it launched following the Korean boom did not sell as fast as the company predicted beforehand. What is important now seems to be an organization and company climate to create something new that surprises consumers.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

No. 13: Material producers are expanding production capacity hastily to cope with growing demand for lithium-ion battery (December 18, 2011)

Toda Kogyo and Mitsui Engineering and Shipbuilding will jointly build a plant to produce newly developed a cathode material with an investment of about 5 billion yen. The new plant will be built inside the Chiba plant of Mitsui Engineering and Shipbuilding. It will start operations between January and March 2013 with an annual production capacity of 2,100 tons. The newly developed cathode material is lithium phosphate. It does not need the addition of rare metals, and it has a 10 times longer life than the existing cathode materials.

Asahi Glass will start production of cathode materials in China starting April 2012. It will invest about 1,000 million yen to acquire a local company in Jiangsu of China through its subsidiary. The Chinese company is building a plant in Wuxi for the production of lithium cobalt oxide. Asahi Glass has two plants in Japan, and the plant in China will be its first plant abroad. Because Asahi’s customers are rushing to the Chinese market, Asahi decided to branch out into China. Asahi’s production capacity will be double with the plant in China.

Ube Kosan established a joint venture company with Dow Chemical in Michigan in December for the production and marketing of electrolyte. It will build a plant with an annual production capacity of 5,000 tons that will start operations late 2012. Ube plans to build a joint venture company in China and Europe. Ube is world’s largest producer of electrolyte for lithium-ion batteries 20% share in the world market.
Japanese companies have strong presence with technological excellence in the lithium-ion battery material business. In the cathode material business, the market leader is Nichia Corp. that is followed by Toda Kogyo and Asahi Glass. Ube and Mitsubishi Chemical have strong presence in the electrolyte market. Hitachi Chemical and JFE Chemical are the two names in the negative-electrode material market, while Asahi Chemical and Ube are strongly active in the separator business.

According to the survey conducted by a public research firm, the world lithium-ion battery market will grow 3.6 times over the level in 2011 to about 4,110 billion yen in 2020. In particular, demand for in-vehicle lithium-ion battery is estimated to grow 40 times in the same period due to the spread of electric vehicles ad hybrid cars. Because the in-vehicle lithium-ion battery requires a high degree of dependability and durability, collaborative research and development is supposed to spread quite rapidly.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

No. 12: Three factors to increase current profits than planned in the current turbulent times (December 14, 2011)

According to the survey conducted by Nihon Keizai Shimbun, more than half of the listed companies that will close the current account year on March 31, 2012 are expected to increase the current profits than planned. Japan has a total of 1,692 listed companies that close the account on March 31 every year, and 936 companies, or about 55% of the 1,962 companies, are expected to improve the current profits and 171 companies, or about 10%, are expected to achieve the highest current profits.

The factors that allow the 936 companies to achieve such favorable results can be divided into three categories. One is the strong domestic demand. The companies classified in this category include Softbank that is a mobile phone carrier, Yamada Denki that is the leading volume retailer of electric products, and Bookoff that is a secondhand bookseller chain, and Kameda Seika that is a famous Japanese snack maker. The second category contains companies that successfully developed markets in newly industrialized countries. They include Fanuc that is a robot maker, Uni-charm that is Japan’s leading napkin maker, Marubeni that is one of Japan’s general trading companies, and JGC that is an engineering company. The third category contains such companies as Toray, Kuraray, and Nidec, all of which are enjoying a big market share in the respective markets in Japan.

In summary, the three factors are the ability to develop the domestic market, the ability to cultivate foreign markets, and the ability to increase the share with excellent technology. In short, the efforts to focus on the fundamentals seem to have worked well.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

No. 11: The asset-light approach alone is not enough (December 1, 2011)

Panasonic started to integrate TV manufacturing plants, but Sony is one step ahead of Panasonic in the asset-light approach. Sony had 15 TV assembly plants in 2004, but it promptly integrated them responding to the sale decline caused by the Lehman Shock. It has only 4 TV assembly plants at present. It improved the tangible asset turnover rate to about 7 times, increasing the rate by 1 time in five years. Sony’s current tangible asset turnover rate is well above the figure of Samsung of Korea. However, Sony’s results still remain stagnant. Sony’s consolidated operating profit is 20 billion yen this year, while it was about 200 billion yen last year.

The asset-light approach that decreases in-house production means increasing outsourcing production. From the financial viewpoint, the fixed cost (depreciation cost) changes to variable cost (purchasing cost like materials cost) in the asset-light approach. Because the price reduction is so steep in the TV business, Sony has not been successful enough in reducing the variable cost to improve the consolidated operating profit. Another factor for poor results is the heavy burden of labor cost. Samsung is expected to achieve the “sales per employee” that stands at about 61 million yen, while Sony is estimated to score the figure at about 39 million yen. This means Sony is not as successful in reducing the labor cost as it is in reducing the asset.

These two facts indicate that the asset-light approach is not enough to improve the balance between sales and number of employees. Therefore, it is necessary to formulate measures that consist of two approaches: decreasing the input (reducing the number of employees, etc.) and increasing the output (increasing sales), and allocate the capital raised by them to research and development effectively. As a matter of fact, the asset-light approach alone is not enough to improve results. Any approach is not enough alone because it has pros and cons.

Monday, November 21, 2011

No. 10: Develop your strengths (November 22, 2011)

Starting in Greece, the current economic instability is spreading very fast across boarders. Japan is no exception. However, it is noteworthy that some Japanese companies are enjoying good results and expanding business in these turbulent days. Fujitsu General recorded the highest profit in its history by concentrating its resources on the air-conditioner business. This company is famous as the company that commercialized the plasma TV for the first time in the world. However, it was not big enough to capture the market as a diversified consumer electronics maker, and it decided to focus on the air-conditioner business. Its state-of-the-art air-conditioning technology contributed to the splendid results. The same is true of Yokogawa Electric. This company specialized in measuring instruments, saying goodbye to diversification.

Toray records the highest profit in its history because its functional fibers featured by moisture absorption and thermal insulation are selling very fast. Komatsu, Japan’s leader in the heavy machinery industry, has been growing business with the help of GPS-based advanced follow-up services. Acquiring a big market share is also a big factor for successful companies. Kuraray has such as a high share of 80% in the films for flat-screen TVs. The company scored the highest profit. Thanks to the state-of-the-art technology, Fanuc also enjoys the highest profit in its history despite the fact that all its products are made in Japan in this high yen period.

The above companies remind us of the famous lesson Peter Drucker gave us. He emphasized the importance of developing your strengths.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

No. 9: Restructuring of the industry and market provides opportunities of innovation (November 12, 2011)

As Peter Drucker taught us, restructuring of the industry and market provides opportunities of innovation. In Japan, both industry and market are undergoing drastic restructuring because of the dwindling birthrate and an aging population. The manufacturing industry accounts for less than 30% of gross domestic products now. The GDP of the manufacturing sector including the construction industry decreased by 48 trillion yen and the number of workers decreased by 5,700,000 in the past 20 years. It is estimated that the number of workers will decrease another 4,000,000 over the next 10 years. It is critical for Japan to increase the productivity of the service industry and create new industries.

Gakken Holdings developed a new business field for elderly people. Taking note that pay nursing homes require a large sum of lamp-sum payment for moving in, the company renovates idle company dormitories to low-cost rental housing for elderly people, eliminating the lamp-sum payment and asking each resident to conclude a contract for the nursing service independently to keep the rent at a low level. It hit the mark. It receives lots of inquiries from companies in the manufacturing and distribution sectors that have difficulty in dealing with idle places. Actually, there are lots of idle assets that can be renovated to build nursing homes. With the development of an aging society, home delivery of water has been growing quite rapidly. It is now a market of 60 billion yen that is five times bigger than it was six years ago.

The number of new houses decreased to about 800,000 per year, which is a half in the peak period. Housing makers need to develop attractive products with features as the competition intensifies. This trend makes Elly Power, a producer of stationery batteries, even more active because houses with a storage battery introduced by leading housing makers attract wide attention nationwide. Instead of electric vehicle market, the company focused on the housing market and hit the mark. It is building a new plant to mass produce its lithium-ion batteries that can be installed in a house as an emergency power source. Idemitsu Kosan, one of Japan’s leading oil refineries, acquired a medium-sized agrichemical maker for 5 billion yen to enter into the agribio business.  

The next 100 years will be a century of energy, foods, and environment. Every company, both at home and abroad, is required to think about its business seriously, abandoning its successful experiences

Saturday, November 5, 2011

No. 8: Staying in Japan to protect the state-of-the-art technology: Zebra and Fanuc (November 2, 2011)

Founded in 1897, Zebra has been specializing in writing materials. Although overseas production accounts for about 40%, the company produces its main products in Japan. Since ballpoint pens are sold at the retailer at 100 yen each on average, they can be produced at a cost about one third in China than in Japan. Nonetheless, it decided to invest 10 billion yen over the next five years to renovate its plant in Japan. The competitive edge is the pen tip that allows for uniform and smooth writing. It examines finished products to a precision of one thousandth of a millimeter and abandons all the daily productions should one of them be found beyond this precision standard. The company believes that continuous efforts to keep the product quality contribute to improving the brand equity.

Fanuc is another example to place the highest importance on the domestic production. This company builds almost all its finished products in Japan, though it sells 80% of its products in foreign countries. Its monthly robot production will increase to 5,000 units that is twice the production of its western competitors soon. The company is in a position that producing in one plant contributes to reducing production cost and increasing competitive edge. The company is in the middle of installing production equipment in the new plant scheduled to start operations coming December. It expects to increase the consolidated profits 25% over the previous year to 150 billion yen this year, achieving the record high in its history. It increased sales to about 450 billion yen in about 40 years after the foundation, and plans to increase sales to 1,000 billion yen over the next three years.

These two companies show how important it is for a company to locate its strengths and keep asking what value it can offer to customers. This approach remains the best approach to increase the brand equity in the long run even in the days of high yen.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

No. 7: Integration of production seems to grow widespread: Meiji’s case (October 20, 2011)

Meiji Holdings will build a new plant for the production of dairy products and confectionery with an investment of more than 10 billion yen. The plant is scheduled to go into operation in 2016. The company integrated the food division in April this year, but this alone was not enough to cope with the dwindling domestic food market.
The construction of the new plant shows the company’s determination to accelerate the restructuring of the organization for effective response to dwindling birthrate and an aging population. The company plans to develop new high-value added products that utilize the accumulated technology and marketing know-how in dairy products and confectionery.

The Japanese food industry is not successful in solving problems with supply glut. Most processed foods are used for special sales events, and Japanese food companies are inferior to European food companies in the profit-earning ratio. According to the government statistics, Japan has about 19,000 food companies in 2009, only 7% drop from 1999. In contrast, the food and confectionery market decreased 1.5% to about 3,208 billion yen in 2010. Milk consumption decreased to about 30% to 580 billion yen in 2010. It is an urgent task for every food and confectionery company to find solutions to solve the demand and supply gap.   

Monday, October 10, 2011

No. 6: From building a house to renovating a house (October 10, 2011)

The household appliance industry keeps close watch on the development of housing. The average number of a household was 4.1 people 50 years ago, while it is merely 2.5 people at present. Single households and two-people households have a combined share of more than 60% of all households in Japan. Life inside a house is changing.

The number of houses mattered most in the period of high economic. Numerous housing complexes were built to satisfy the increasing population in the high economic growth period. In the days of dwindling birthrate and aging population, however, people naturally place importance on the interior of a house and rethink what roles a house should play for the future. Ongoing research on smart house and eco house aiming at reducing energy consumption facilitates these trends. An electric vehicle is a storage battery as much as it is a means of transport.

You have to take off your shoes when you enter a Japanese house, and this practice is rather strange for foreign people. However, it is creating lots of business opportunities. For example, when you walk on a floor carpet without shoes, you can give various kinds of information on your body, such as pulse, blood pressure, weight, and body temperature, directly to the floor carpet through your soles, and a sensor in the floor carpet transmits such pieces of information to a hospital automatically for health checkup. Lighting fixtures can be part of a ceiling, while information equipment like TV can be part of a wall.

Traditionally, a Japanese house can be characterized by aesthetic feeling based on harmony. This can be found in the tea ceremony and traditional flower arrangement. In addition, the door of each house faces the street to enhance the communication with neighbors on the street. As the aging society develops, renovating a house increases the presence at a market because the aged have enough financial resource to renovate their houses to their satisfaction.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

No. 5: Keywords are focusing and the global market. (June 30, 2011)

Hitachi once dubbed a “sinking big warship” is increasing the presence in the global market quite rapidly these days. The company renewed its record-high profit in the fiscal year ended March 2011 for the fist time in 20 years. What is the driving force that allows Hitachi to record such an astounding come back? It is unquestionably the strategy that places the highest importance on focusing and the global market.

Since Japan’s national railways was privatized in 1987, Hitachi has been accumulating infrastructure technology for the railway business, such as building aluminum body and digitalization of signals. Equipped with the accumulated state-of-the-arts technology, Hitachi cultivated the foreign markets consistently. The constant efforts started to yield results. Hitachi is expected to obtain an order for a high-speed railway construction project from Great Britain for 600 billion yen. It focuses on the infrastructure business, while keeping away from such fast-moving business as semiconductor and mobile phone. It avoided getting involved in business characterized by fierce price competition and the dog year speed.

Business analysts used to suggested that Hitachi should focus on its strengths, departing from the strategy to produce and market products from home electronics to heavy electric machinery. However, Hitachi knows its strengths very well. Hitachi’s strenuous efforts to develop infrastructure technology are totally based on the motor technology from which Hitachi originated. More than 50 years ago, Hitachi’s billboards declared that Hitachi means motors, and motors mean Hitachi. As always, the base of the development is the key technology of the company.

The world faces serious global environmental issues caused by increasing greenhouse gases emissions. It is imperative especially for advanced countries to reduce greenhouses gases emissions drastically. With the background of the world fear of oil depletion and global warming, the railway business attracts wide attention. The railway business involves lots of industrial fields, and stations are the places where people can find new way of life. It can safely be said that Hitachi’s strategy hit the mark.

Any company has to construct a strategy most suitable for the current business trend because time changes constantly. However, the fact remains that development should be based on company’s key technology and keywords should be focusing and the global market.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

No. 4: What drives the restructuring of retailers before railway stations (May 18, 2011)

Business centered by a railway station is growing quite rapidly in Japan. Especially, Japan Railways (JR) exerts lots of energy to activate the station business under the concept that stations are the places not only for passengers but also for shoppers. One of Japan’s leading departments opened a new outlet in Osaka station on May 4. Because the new outlet is directly linked to the platform of Osaka station, it draws 200,000 visitors daily on average. Actually, JR’s energetic efforts to activate the station business are facilitating the restructuring of leading retailers.

Historically, Japanese cities developed with a railway station in the center. In the Osaka area, two private railways are competing with JR, and the three companies naturally try to shorten the travel time between Kobe and Osaka and between Kyoto and Osaka to win the competition. Now the story has changed. What is important now is the ability to draw visitors, whether they are incoming and outgoing passengers or shoppers of department stores. With the growing presence of JR in the trend to expand station facilities and build new outlets, department stores affiliated with a private railway face the necessity of restructuring to keep their customers coming. The same situation is going on across the country.

JR’ station business is growing rapidly with its scale and efficiency. In a sense, it seems that a government enterprise is pressing hard the business of private companies, but change of thought is vital in this case. Shoppers drive out to large shopping malls with the development of motorization, but stations are ready to draw more shoppers with the growing concern about global warming. It is the time for retailers to depart from the strategy to sell almost the same product lineup at almost the same price rage to compete with JR-run retailers and devise a strategy to differentiate themselves. Only retailers successful in differentiation can survive in the days of declining birthrate and a growing population of elderly people, especially in the station-originate business.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

No. 3: Growing demand for domestic premium wines (May 3, 2011)

Land left uncultivated is increasing in Japan with the progress of low birthrate and longevity, but the world is as kind as it is cruel. An increasing number of ex-salaried workers started to venture to produce premium wines. An elite businessman became independent and cultivated the abandoned farmland, and he is now growing about 7,000 vines for premium wines in this 3.2-hectare land. The most expensive wine from his winery is 5,000 yen, but it was sold out in a half year after it was launched this past spring. Another elite businessman started to produce a total of 20,000 bottles of wine and sparkling liquor in a rural area. He also runs a restaurant and an outlet of wines inside the winery, and lets visitors see the fermentation equipment and storage tanks. More than 30,000 people visit his winery and see the production process annually. Wines between 3,000-5,000 yen are popular among them.

Wines are growing popular among people as moderately priced wines become easily available. It is no longer unusual that housewives buy import wines below 500 yen at supermarkets together with foodstuffs. It can be presumed that they usually buy moderately priced domestic wines, and look for premium import wines for special occasions. However, an industry source says that sales of import wines increased 12.5% in bottle in 2010 over the previous year, but indicates that an increasing number of customers prefer import wines priced around 2,000 yen, showing a clear decrease in average customer spend. While sales of less expensive import wines are growing, Japanese domestic wine makers are shifting their focus on premium wines.

Driven by medium-sized wine makers, leading wine makers have been launching high-value added wines lately. Sapporo renovated its winery to start producing domestic premium wines around 3,000 yen coming September. Suntory launched a premium wine made only from domestic grapes was sold on its website for 18,000 yen last December, and it was immediately sold out. It is increasingly visible that preference for premium wines is growing stronger in Japan.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

No. 2: Do shopping instead of waiting in line inside the shop (April 30, 2011)

Taya, one of Japan’s leading hairdressing salon chains, started a unique service. Visit one of its hairdressing salons in Tokyo, and you can find a liquid crystal display monitor at the reception counter. It is a kind of automatic reception machine that you can find at banks and post offices. Put your requirements, such as how you wish to have your hair cut, on the monitor and print out the sheet on which you see your reception number. Read out the QR code on the sheet with your mobile phone and send a blank e-mail, and you can receive an e-mail telling your turn 15-20 minute before you have to take a chair inside the shop to make yourself ready for hairdressing. One of the customers is very happy with this service because she can do shopping instead of waiting in line inside the shop reading magazines, saying that she no longer needs to worry if the shop is crowded. The Shampoo that is the economical hairdressing salon chain managed by Taya offers haircut for 1,900 yen, and customers do not need to make a reservation. Because no reservation is needed, customers often go to another hairdressing salon seeing the long waiting line inside the shop. As the competition among economical hairdressing salons intensifies, the company places expectation in this new service as a strong weapon for business growth.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

No. 1: Secret of the growing popularity of whisky (April 28, 2011)

Although low birthrate and longevity has been shrinking the alcoholic market, whisky is recording an amazing growth in sales in Japan. Whisky shipments increased on a year-on-year basis in 2009 for the first time in the past 25 years, and they increased 20% over the previous year in 2010. It is highball that stimulates the whisky market. Suntory, Japan’s largest whisky producer, examined the whisky market closely and found that highball is very popular among the youth eating at restaurants well known for excellent cuisines. The company started to hold seminars to teach staffs of restaurants and drinking spots how to make good highball, and printed stickers written in Korean and Chinese.

Whisky and water is traditionally the most popular alcohol drink in drinking spots. However, some drinking spots use tap water to serve whisky and water in pursuit of profit. This problematic practice led to the decreasing whisky shipments. Besides holding seminars, Suntory introduced varieties of ways how to enjoy whisky. Namely, the producer has became the presenter of a wonderful life accompanies by various kinds of whisky transcending the framework of distiller. In the past, who could have thought of the combination of whisky and Chinese cuisines? The company also worked out several marketing gimmicks to attract female whisky fans. For example, it delivers seminars where females can enjoy whisky with varieties of cuisines and fruits.

The growing popularity of whisky epitomized by highball teaches us two lessons. One is the importance of change of thought. Develop new cuisines to make alcohol taste better instead of pursuing alcohol to make foods taster better. The other is the importance of keep changing. As Darwin taught us, it is not the strongest species but specifies most competent to adapt to the environment that finally survives.