*This program was first broadcast on June 4, 2018

Adding Bubbles, Adding Fun
Hidefumi Kimura

President, Kimura Drink

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For 70 years, Kimura Drink has made ramune, a fizzy riff on lemonade. They also make drinks with surprising ingredients like curry and shrimp. Why? We asked the company’s president, Hidefumi Kimura.

The following are excerpts from our interview.

We used the flavor of wasabi, it came through strongly. And so the ramune had this shocking flavor. Our employees were completely against it. They said, “If we put out something this gross, our company is finished!” But it had regionality. I said, “Let’s just put it out there and see what happens.” And so we did.

What we realized is that tourists who came to the area thought it looked interesting, and bought it. So instead of trying to get the product stocked at places like supermarkets, we focused on places that get a lot of one-time customers: souvenir shops, highway rest stops, kiosks in train stations. Places like that. The product taught me a valuable lesson--that it might just be possible to survive doing business only in Shizuoka.

People around the world know the word “ramune” now. Currently our total annual sales are about 2 billion yen. And a little over 300 million yen of that is international. Over the next few years, I want that number to grow to 1 billion yen. Japanese food is bigger than ever right now around the world, and we want to take advantage. People drink sake with Japanese food, but for people who don’t drink alcohol, they can enjoy soft drinks like ramune. That’s a way we can grow.

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