Obihiro Wholesale Market to strengthen private brand. New business with imperfect produce

March 25
The first Obihiro Region Wholesale Market private brand commercialized from imperfect produce: "Fruits Gelato Meoto Melon"

The Obihiro Region Wholesale Market (Obihiro) in the Tokachi area plans to strengthen new business from the new fiscal year. Product development using imperfect produce is the business core. This summer, it will sell high quality gelato made from Furano grown melons as a private brand. And in response to relaxations in regulations accompanying the Revised Wholesale Market Act coming into force in June of last year, a new Obihiro Region Wholesale Market fresh fish store is slated to open in Obihiro’s central downtown Fujimaru Department Store on April 1. The strategy is to switch to an “aggressive business attack model” within a highly competitive market environment.

The produce that the Obihiro Region Wholesale Market plans to use in its private brand is the “Meoto Melon”, grown by three farms in Furano’s Yamabe district. The pulp of these rare orange King Ruby Melons is thick and immensely sweet. They have a history spanning more than thirty years, and are called “Fantasy Melons”. Approximately 60 tons of these melons are grown per year, but with problems like breaking easily, they are difficult to cultivate. The plan is to take imperfect melons, such as melons that are too small or have irregular shapes, and process them into a gelato that does not have a strict expiration date.

Through a partnership with an Obihiro sweets shop, the Obihiro Region Wholesale Market will start selling in Tokachi region supermarkets and shops with the product “Fruits Gelato Meoto Melon” (90 milliliters, approx. 400 yen). The harvest season is from June to August, and the plan is to produce approximately twenty thousand gelato products from a maximum of one ton of projected imperfect melons.

Private brands have high profitability, and the high quality and uniqueness are easy to highlight in promotion. The Obihiro Region Wholesale Market has already proven successful in endeavors such as partnering with Obihiro Product Association to commercialize “Ichiba no Nikuman, Miso” made with Kirei Mame Miso from Shibuya Jozo (Honbetsu). This is their first attempt at commercializing imperfect products, and they plan to continue using their network with Hokkaido agricultural associations and producers in the future as well.

Another new project for this company is a fresh fish sales area operated in Fujimaru. Inheriting the staff from a sales area formerly operated by a different company, they will open a direct-sales area called “Ichirin, Fujimaru Branch”. Their history of specializing in selling wholesale to retail shops, restaurants, and bars has culminated in a stockpile of sales knowhow that links to consumers. And this accumulation will be beneficial in their new sales endeavors.

This business arena expansion has arisen against a backdrop of the wholesale market facing difficult times. There is currently a rise in “off-market trading” in which major food supermarkets and stores contract directly with producers, and market usage drops yearly. Last year’s billings for the Obihiro Region Wholesale Market did increase by 2.7% compared to the year before that. However, this was the first instance of avoiding dropping below the previous year in six years. They need to develop new sources of revenue if they want to survive.

Senior Managing Director Takashima Masahiro expressed their plans to grow stronger, saying, “We want to increase trust relationships with producers and develop products that will capture the hearts of consumers.”

Location

Obihiro Region Wholesale Market

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