Launched in Japan in 2013, Meiji's Apply Before Toasting Cheese Spread contains a patented mix of dairy and plant ingredients and domestically-sourced Cheddar and Parmesan cheese.
The product, which produces toast with the aroma and taste of cheese, was an instant success in Japan, according to Meiji.
A year earlier, Meiji introduced Creamy Smooth, a range of fresh cream-based spreads for untoasted bread, to the market. Before that, in 2011, Meiji Off Style Spread, a 70% reduced fat margarine, hit shelves.
Meiji Off Style Spread became the top seller in the Japanese margarine category within two months of its launch, Meiji claims. Creamy Smooth has also been well received, Meiji said, shifting around half a million units per month.
Prior to the developments, Meiji controlled an already substantial 19% share of the Japanese spreads market, which at the time consisted mainly of butter and margarine.
Three years and three NPDs later, Meiji is the country's largest spreads maker with a 38% share of the small format spreads market.
“Our strategy was to respond to consumer demand with lower fat and lower calorie options, but more importantly to expand the market by developing new subcategories or uses for spreads," a spokesperson for the Japanese dairy giant told DairyReporter.com.
“We obviously hoped for success with our products which would result in an increase in market share. Considering limited marketing budgets we were very happy that consumers realized the value of these products.”
The subcategories pinpointed by Meiji - reduced-fat margarine, dairy spread for untoasted bread, and cheese spread - matched its "technological advances with consumer needs."
Development was, however, not without its challenges, said the spokesperson.
"For all of these products, manufacturing stability and consistency was a problem."
"These couldn't be produced with our existing facility for margarine. These products are all very different from existing margarine or dairy spreads."
Meiji addressed this by constructing a brand new manufacturing plant, packed out with patented processing technology.
A production method was, for example, developed specifically to overcome line pressure issues by the high dietary fiber content of reduced fat Meiji Off Style Spread.
With Creamy Smooth, Meiji was faced with avoiding use of emulsifiers and pasteurization - both of which can create an off taste.
Close-lipped Meiji said it again developed a novel production method to produce Creamy Smooth with the same ingredients but without any impact on taste.
Pressed on its future spreads sector ambitions, Meiji said it hopes to build on its existing market share.
"We plant to continue our innovation in this area," said the spokesperson.
"If this results in greater market share, that would be very welcome."