Radishboya: branded veggies

Mar 15

Radishboya, a specialist online supermarket owned by NTT Docomo, is expanding into branded vegetable ranges. 

Radishboya, the upscale online food delivery service, is introducing branded vegetables this month. The move represents another step forward for online food retailing, although the products remain somewhat experimental and will begin with just five SKUs. The company will emphasise both product characteristics and the source in order to differentiate Radishboya vegetables from other supermarkets. Prices will be up to twice those of other lines, indicating that Radishboya is expecting big things from the new ranges.

Radishboya, which is now majority owned by NTT Docomo, is already popular for its organic and low pesticide ranges – one of the few retail suppliers to emphasise this safe and healthy fresh food angle despite the obvious interest among large segments of consumers. Typical supermarkets have avoided branding of fresh foods due to the difficulty in guaranteeing quality within long supply chains, originating mostly from small scale farming. Organic produce is available, but a different emphasis on quality expectations, notably consumers’ unwillingness to accept produce with less than a perfect outward appearance, mean it failed to become mainstream after a short period of popularity in the 1990s.

Radishboya will now introduce its new branded lines under the name ‘Chikara-aru Yasai’ (roughly Power Vegetables) with contract farmers using strict, pre-determined parameters and methods. One of the first products, a pepper variety, is being grown in special soil in Okinawa Prefecture. According to the company, Chikara-aru Yasai peppers are considerably larger than the small peppers usually sold in Japan, with a much stronger taste due to the additional mineral content of the soil.

Each of the new products will be specially produced with some additional health or taste benefit compared to standard ranges. The new branded products have been in experimental development and sale for sometime, and Radishboya still has only a few varieties that can be produced in sufficient quantities to supply throughout the year. In addition to peppers, the range will start with paprika, onions and two types of tomatoes. The plan is to have 20 SKUs by the end of 2015.

Radishboya, which was established in 1988, currently has 135,000 active registered customers and annual sales of around ¥20 billion. It remains small due to the specialist nature of its ranges and the state of development of online food shopping, but it is already one of the largest independent suppliers and showed enough promise for NTT Docomo to buy its share of the company in 2012 and for Lawson to also take a 10% share in the same year.