Hokkaido Shin Chitose airport

The food emporium at Hokkaido’s Shin Chitose airport is unsurpassed. No wonder packaged goods brands are elbowing in to reinvigorate street cred!

There are not many airports in the world which market crab. Sapporo’s Shin-Chitose is one notable exception.

Hokkaido is famous for hairy crabs. At the airport these retail for around JPY9250/kg whilst King Crabs (typically coming from nearby Russia) are 9800/kg. Other varieties include horsehair, hanasaki and snow hair crab.

Buying crab at the airport isn’t cheap, and whilst better deals can be found online, the target shopper doesn’t mind. Departing passengers, especially those heading to Taiwan, Korea, Hong Kong and SE Asia rush to spend their last dollars. 

Pre-pandemic Hokkaido had 35 million tourist visits a year. This year the numbers are recovering fast just judging on the crowds and flights.

Besides crabs, Shin Chitose’s other big draw is pâtisserie, Hokkaido style. Home grown brands like Royce and Le Tao (from Otaru) have huge amounts of floor space. Personally I like Kinotoya, their cheesecakes are to die for! 

Recently I’ve noticed more national brands leveraging Shin Chitose.

Calbee, a famous snack brand (Pepsico owns a 20% stake), has an experiential store. Calbee is a Tokyo based brand.

Likewise Osaka’s Glico has a store selling home-made caramel. This is made on site and is quite sweet by Japanese standards (to this British author they are just right!). Glico has experimented with a few different sales models in Japan, besides grocery including an office delivery business and ice cream vending.

Glico’s Caramel Kitchen

This year I saw a new store by Pasco. Pasco is a goliath in the Japanese bread industry with 12 domestic plants and over 3,500 employees. I must confess I’m no fan of Pasco or Japanese (supermarket) bread in general. It’s largely white, starchy and on the opposite spectrum of wholesome or wholegrain, in my opinion. Pasco have branded their store ‘Hokkaido premium’ which let’s say for a Nagoya company is stretching it.

Pasco’s Hokkaido Premium

It’s not easy to find data on rents at Shin Chitose, however through some careful sleuthing of Japanese company reports I estimate these are around JPY2520/m² per month (US$18.7). Looking at the number of stores and average floor space the average tenant is paying JPY4.8m per month ($35,600). I get the impression from the financial numbers the airport also takes a margin on product sales too.

(NB data from 2020-1)

I can only see upside for the airport’s sales; Hokkaido’s brand power seems inexorable. If I was the airport management though I’d place a cap on non-Hokkaido brands to avoid diluting the brand’s equity and mysticism. 

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