We are proud to have worked with Seicomart, one of the largest retail convenience store chains in Japan, for over 26 years.
Since its relationship with Seicomart began, P&W has been involved in the creation and development of corporate branding, retail branding, packaging, sub-brands, point of sale and consultation services.
The retailer’s parent company, Secoma, has a head office on the Northern island of Hokkaido and a company ethos that projects a strong sense of community.
Many of its stores are a lifeline for those living in rural areas, especially since the island has an ageing demographic and the winters are very cold with heavy snowfall.
The brand prides itself in selling high quality products at affordable low prices.
When the first project was briefed to P&W (ranges of German, French and Californian wines) the company’s Chairman, Mr Akao made his strong vision for the brand clear. He wanted to introduce European design styling (which he much admired) into his stores.
Seicomart’s biggest competitors at the time were (and still are) Lawson's and 7-Eleven which are both heavily influenced by American styling and retail language principles.
Over the past quarter of a century P&W’s UK / European tone to packaging solutions have resulted in a strong point of differentiation to the Seicomart shopping experience compared to that of its rivals. This includes our packaging designs for the retailers range of Peanuts, Popcorn and canned coffee sub-brand, Grandia.
For the past 15 years P&W has been tasked with an annual wine label brief for the Beaujolais Nouveau. Since then, the retailer has proudly launched and celebrated the wines P&W has designed, to herald Beaujolais Nouveau Day.
Beaujolais Nouveau Day represents a massive annual occasion in Japan.
The yearly project enables P&W to push creative boundaries and often involves the P&W team collaborating with artists and illustrators to create bespoke, ownable imagery.
As P&W never imposes a “house style” on its creative work (as some agencies do), this provides a flexible platform on which to create innovative, elegant and uniquely original creative solutions for Beaujolais Nouveau each year.
Beaujolais is a French Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée, light red wine generally made of the Gamay Noir grape, produced in the Beaujolais region of France. It is most popular “vin de primeaur” (early wines), fermented for just a few weeks before being released in the same year as harvest, on the third Thursday of November.
There are only 55 appellations in France allowed to produce the wine, and, by law, the grapes in the region must be harvested by hand.
There are now three types of Beaujolais, the Beaujolais Nouveau, Beaujolais Villages Nouveau and Beaujolais Rosé Nouveau, the latter two wines have an increased premium quality and therefore price-point too.
Beaujolais Nouveau is famous for races by distributors to get the first bottles to different markets around the globe. Over 40% of the wine is exported annually from France, with means of transport over the years including hot-air balloon, elephant, military jet and Concorde. Plus the world-famous Beaujolais Run which over 50 years has included: Damon Hill, Sir Terrance Conran and Sterling Moss.
The combination of the heritage, grape origin and the wine’s story make all three Beaujolais Nouveau wines highly desirable worldwide.
For Seicomart, the launch of Beaujolais Nouveau is significant, an occasion that is very exciting, as Japan is the number one export market for the product. In 2019 alone, a staggering five million bottles were exported to Japan.
There are four key factors surrounding the popularity of Beaujolais Nouveau in Japan.
The first reason it is so revered is that in 1985, when the release date for the wine was changed to the third Thursday in November, it corresponded with a massive economic boom for the country; the “bubble boom”. The festive mood of the wine combined with the rising economy in Japan, increased sales exponentially.
Secondly, the Japanese tend to like the first crop of the season which they call “Hatsu Mono”. In Japanese, Hatsu means “the first” and “Mono” means “a thing”. Traditionally one who eats “Hatsu Mono” can take a new lease of life and have good luck. This means that of all the wines available in Japan, Beaujolais Nouveau is particularly appealing.
Thirdly, the Japanese can technically enjoy Beaujolais Nouveau eight hours earlier than in France (due to the time difference). This adds a further level of eagerness to the release of Beaujolais Nouveau in Japan, with consumers often queuing overnight outside stores to be the first to purchase.
Fourthly, and most simply, the taste of the wine is pleasantly light and fruity which suits the palate of the Japanese perfectly.
Now, the launch of the Beaujolais Nouveau in is fervently celebrated each year at various events. The most surprising is “bathing” in the wine at Yunessun, a famous hot-spring in Hakone.
Each year, the brief P&W receive from Seicomart varies, but the principles remain the same; to provide a European-influenced, elegant wine label that represents the fresh bouquet of the wine.
In earlier years, the label designs were much more orientated towards celebratory references, however, in recent years the brief has subtly evolved to be more about P&W providing a design solution for each label that is empathetic with region rather than tasting experience or product history.
2020 represented the second year P&W designed three Beaujolais wine labels for the retailer, one for Beaujolais Nouveau, one for Beaujolais Villages Nouveau and one for Beaujolais Rosé Nouveau.
The wines vary in price; the Beaujolais Nouveau is approximately £12.50 and the Beaujolais Villages Nouveau and Beaujolais Rosé Nouveau retail at over £14 and £13 per bottle.
Once P&W receives its annual brief from the Seicomart team, at least four conceptual artworks are created and submitted for review by the client.
Some years P&W create a common theme across all labels, so the designs work together as a collection. However, some years each of the wine labels are entirely unique with each wine standing alone. Usually one but on occasion, two creative routes are selected for further development.
Typically inspired by floral and nature elements, but sometimes stimulated by the work of historical French artists or stylisations of the Gamay Noir grape, each label design is handcrafted by P&W’s in-house designers with illustrations either hand-painted or digitally rendered in-house or commissioned by independent illustrators and artists.
As Seicomart’s Beaujolais Nouveau is freighted by air, this is always signified on each bottle’s neck label, often visually represented by a bird, hot air balloon, aeroplane or even a butterfly.
The creative strategy for the 2020 tryptic of Beaujolais Nouveau wines was inspired by very stylised yet naturalistic floral wreaths and borders.
The Beaujolais Rosé Nouveau and Beaujolais-Villages Nouveau took inspiration from the Arts and Crafts artist William Morris, whose wallpaper designs relied on a well-practiced and close observation of nature.
The luxuriantly naturalistic intricate floral and grape illustrations across both labels were expertly montaged by P&W. The resulting designs for both of these premium wines exude quality, elegance and sophistication.
The Beaujolais Nouveau, the least expensive wine of the three, has a much simplified approach, a wreath digitally constructed from illustrative and photographic floral and natural elements against a white backdrop. The resulting label solution intriguingly detailed yet simple and charming.
P&W has help Seicomart to become one of the Top 10 retailers in the whole of Japan for Beaujolais, particularly impressive as it only sells its own-brand product range.
The retailer also conveniently provides consumers with recycling units outside of its stores with gift incentives for consumers that use them.
Secoma goes from strength to strength; there are now around 1,200 Seicomart stores. Its heartland is likely to remain in Hokkaido, the agricultural hub of Japan and own-brand launches that P&W has helped bring to fruition, which reflects its principle with increased emphasis on provenance.
P&W find it interesting that when businesses and personal principles are aligned with a spirit of mutual respect and trust established, geographical and cultural challenges can be overcome, transcending obstacles.
Our relationship with Secoma has thrived for over a quarter of a century and has encompassed many challenging but ultimately rewarding projects, with the annual Beaujolais Nouveau brief being a highlight each year.
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