|Dave McCaughan is exec VP-director of strategic planning at McCann Erickson and a Tokyo-based trendspotter.|
Summer is always a great time for quirky cooling products in Japan. Pepsi launched a limited-time-only "Iced Cucumber" carbonated drink with a cucumber-and-melon flavor. It was a hit fad that sold out before many could even try it. And this has been the summer of the "red water." Asahi launched one of a number of red-berry-sourced, vitamin-fortified water products.
A few years ago Nestlé Japan revived the KitKat brand by launching it in a constant string of new flavors -- an innovation that has now gone global. This summer it created a lemon KitKat with a cream filler made from real crushed lemon peel and pulp, to refresh snackers. Special summer flavors were all the rage with other confectionery staples. Poscam, a leading chewing-gum brand, created a lemongrass flavor and the famous chocolate-covered pretzel sticks from Pocky were made in summer-only coconut and Tahitian Vanilla flavors.
But these seemingly hotter summers and global warming have brought out serious responses as well. The Japanese government's "coolbiz" initiative encourages the classically formal salarymen to get rid of their ties and dark suits during summer months. Even the prime minister joined in by appearing more often in open-necked shirts. The clothing industry found a new lease on life supplying more casual office wear. All this is an attempt to get building owners to lower air conditioning and reduce power needs by billions of yen. Buildings are getting a green facelift with roof gardens to help lower temperatures inside. Even construction sites are surrounded by walls of stacked potted plants that at least keep us thinking cool.