Tokushimaru is a mobile supermarket start-up which has caught the attention of industry giant Ito-Yokado

It’s been widely reported that Japan has one of the world’s largest and fastest growing ageing populations.

According to 2021 Government statistics there were 32.25 million aged over 65 and of those 12.3 million over 80.

Whilst Japanese supermarket chains have not ignored this demographic, for example industry leader Aeon has targeted “G.Gs” (standing for “Grand Generation”) built some G.G. areas in-store and introduced a G.G. e-money card. No one has yet come up with a winning solution for elderly shoppers who have trouble visiting their local store.

Aeon’s Grand Generation advertising

One fundamental issue is that internet penetration amongst the elderly in Japan is below 30%.

Whilst net shopping for groceries has existed here for many years (for example Coop Kobe has one of the largest home delivery businesses in the country) it doesn’t have the same penetration as in many other markets.

Every time I go to Singapore and hear about Redmart’s explosive growth, I wondered why Redmart, or a similar start-up, hasn’t been able to make similar waves.

Perhaps that’s changing?

Tokushimaru is a business operated by Oisix Ra Daichi. It’s a company that has a polyglot of home delivery entities selling vegetables, meal kits and daily necessities. Oisix has over 1900 employees and is listed on the Tokyo stock exchange.

In short Tokushimaru operates mobile supermarkets, actually small vans carrying up to 1,200 SKUs. The business was conceived around 10 years ago. Tokushimaru signs deals with local supermarkets so their produce is sold on the vans. Tokushimaru franchises this business out to local entrepreneurs.

Tokushimaru van in Ito Yokado livery

Tokushimaru has caught the eye of industry giants like Ito-Yokado (7&I Holdings) who have around 100 Tokushimaru vans in operation.

For now Tokushimaru has been focused on the Kanto-Tokyo region.

I must be honest and say I’ve not seen a Tokushimaru van in person, I only have these photos from the company’s website. I am not sure whether the vans have been well designed for elderly shoppers, for example those with visual impairments. If any readers have any pictures, please share them!

Convenience store chain 7-Eleven already operates a home delivery service from around 500 stores and plans to extend this nationally by 2026. Yes you read that right, 2026!

The big problem is the shortage of labour and truck drivers in particular. Earlier this year Nomura Research said that by 2030 up to 35% of freight could go undelivered in Japan.

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