How Kimino Drinks Wants to Bring Unique Asian Flavors to the US Market

by Theresa Christine Johnson on 03/15/2019 | 3 Minute Read

Do you Yuzu?

You may have never heard of Yuzu before—it’s sort of like if a grapefruit and lime had a little citrus baby, and the result is a somewhat sour fruit with a fragrant smell and distinct flavor. The fruit is immensely popular in Asian countries like Japan and Korea, and Daily Mail happily reported it would be “the next big.” Well, that was in 2014, so it’s fair to say yuzu hasn’t made it big yet. Even though Pepsi Japan Cola just announced its line of sodas made with yuzu, it’s a Japan-specific drink.

We haven’t seen much of this citrus, but beverage company Kimino might change that. Meaning “for you,” the craft soft drinks brand wants to introduce the United States to healthy and authentic seasonal Japanese flavors. The first drink in their line comes from freshly squeezed yuzu.

“The Kimino vision grew from the desire to share our traditionally grown domestic fruits,” said Markus Schlageter, Founder of Kimino. “ We want to be available to many, so everyone can enjoy our Japanese flavors.”

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Kimino Drinks started from a pure love of Japanese fruits. Markus remembered spending many nights hand squeezing yuzu and mixing drinks for friends, so it seemed natural to share it somehow. And unlike other flavors of drinks and juices, you won’t find Yuzu filling up every shelf.

“It’s unusual to find a fruit that is not already a beverage in the big market,” Markus stated, “so Kimino’s first products are unique right away to the market overseas and locally.”

Markus wanted Kimino to be a drink any person of any age could enjoy, so the health aspect of what they offer plays a big part in how they operate. The company supports and preserves the “Shokunin” (or craftsman) way of farming. Not only does this mean not using pesticides to allow the flavors of their ingredients to shine, but it keeps the human relationship to nature and community intact.

“It is important to us that we support the craft and tradition of farming in Japan,” Markus said. “We use fewer machines. All of our fruit is hand picked. We have strong bonds with our farmers, and they are helping us to set up our own farms now next to theirs.

“In doing this, we hope the teaching and tradition continue to be passed on to the next generation. It is a gift we believe is important in preserving our culture and in growing healthy natural fruits for sustainable living.”

This plays into their “non-design approach,” as Markus calls it—basically, the packaging precisely communicates what's inside the beverage as Kimino believes all food products should. In the case of their Yuzu drink, it includes the freshly squeezed juice, sparkling water, and a hint of cane sugar, with nothing unnecessary.

“There are many distractions in this busy world,” Markus pointed out, “and we try not to be one.”

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You can peer at the refreshing lemonade-like color through the glass bottle, the white background of the label looks crisp, and a sans serif font gives it a touch of sophistication. But the real standout here is the yuzu fruit on the front. By keeping their packaging simple, you can almost taste the sour, refreshing citrus taste when you merely look at it.

“We think of our packaging as a service,” explained Markus. “We are just bringing the yuzu tree closer to you and don’t want to get in the way of your new relationship with Japanese fruits. You can ‘hand pick’ this beverage from the store shelf just as we handpicked the fruit that is inside.”

No, yuzu hasn’t had its moment just yet on the American market, but Markus views that as an opportunity rather than a challenge. He sees the wide range of distributors who want to share Kimino’s products (including their latest addition, an Ume juice), and believes in the power of packaging to help bring consumers a new and novel experience.

“Drinking our beverage is like traveling to our farms,” Markus added. “We hope to share our beverages in a way that brings you to our farm and all over Japan’s countryside with one taste.”

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