Kameda Seika: Cracking the US Market
In spring 2016, Kameda's CEO, Michiyasu Tanaka, is facing difficult questions from board members over the lackluster performance of the company's US subsidiary. Kameda was the leading player in the Japanese rice cracker market and was looking to expand overseas to achieve growth, with the vision of becoming a global food company. Starting in 2008, it had tried to market its best-selling product in Japan, Kakinotane, as well as other types of rice-based snacks to US consumers. Despite years of offering samples to consumers, modifications to the naming and packaging design, the addition of new flavors, changes in the supermarkets it placed its product, and offering retailers slotting fees - sales were well below expectations and losses were mounting. The situation was especially baffling as the company believed that the gluten-free trend as well as a growing desire for healthier food should have bode well for its rice-based snacks; moreover several Japanese food makers had recently achieved success in the US (such as Calbee with snapeas and Ito En with teas). On the bright side, Kameda's recent acquisition of a US company, Mary's Gone Crackers, was showing steady sales growth; though profits were very low due to high manufacturing and raw ingredient costs, and distribution coverage was limited. Tanaka and his management team had only a few years to turn things around or consider closing the Kameda USA subsidiary. Every marketing element was on the table: from changing the packaging to rethinking the retail approach to accepting private label deals to investing in more efficient plants to partnering with a well-known US brand in the snack food space. Could Tanaka save Kameda USA and dramatically improve the profits of Mary's Gone Crackers?