What’s brewing: Japan’s CUNAE aims to change consumer perception of ‘unsatisfying’ caffeine-free beverages through flavour innovations

By Hui Ling Dang

- Last updated on GMT

CUNAE is a new beverage brand by Moacal Co., Ltd that focuses on decaffeinated coffee products. ©Moacal
CUNAE is a new beverage brand by Moacal Co., Ltd that focuses on decaffeinated coffee products. ©Moacal

Related tags Japan caffeine alternative Coffee Beverages

Japanese trading company Moacal Co., Ltd has introduced a new beverage brand that focuses on decaffeinated coffee products, with plans to dip into other drink categories as well as functional beverages.

The caffeine-free beverage market in Japan is reportedly valued at approximately JPY300bn (USD226bn), and is expected to continue growing, according to Takahiro Nakamura, CEO of Moacal.

I think there is great potential for decaffeination. In overseas countries, there are import restrictions on caffeinated foods, and when we see the expansion of the health market in recent years, the demand for caffeine-free beverages will increase further.

“We will develop high-quality products in small to medium lot sizes that major manufacturers cannot, and improve the value and function of caffeine-free beverages through research. I hope that someday, CUNAE will become the most accessible brand for consumers who want decaffeinated products,” ​said Nakamura.

CUNAE, which means “cradle” in Latin, has launched its coffee beans and drip packs on April 12, following a round of crowdfunding.

Originating from Toyooka city in the Hyogo Prefecture, Moacal aims to create new local jobs and revitalise the region while tapping into opportunities in the growing decaffeinated beverages market.

“The impression that many people have of a caffeine-free drink is ‘light-flavoured’ and ‘unsatisfying taste’. To change consumer attitude, weneeded a strong partner who could improve the quality of our coffee and produce flavours that are suitable for everyday consumption,” ​Nakamura shared.

This led to the collaboration with Higurashi Coffee, a long-established roastery in Toyooka.

“Since last year, we have been jointly developing our products with Higurashi Coffee, which has provided a lot of advice on recipe formulation. The flavours were finalised this year, and have received many favourable reviews from people who tried them at various events. While rooted in localisation, the taste of the products was crafted with both domestic and overseas consumers in mind.”

The current line-up of CUNAE coffee beans and drip packs consist of three caffeine-free flavours — ‘Yurikago Sweet’ is the brand’s representative flavour, with a rich aroma and easy-to-drink taste that reminds one of a familiar coffee shop; ‘Floral Dance’ has a distinctive acidity and scent that can experienced from the moment of brewing; and ‘Night Delight’ is characterised by a deep and calming flavour profile that is best savoured after dusk.

Beyond coffee

This year, the firm will be holding several pop-up events at department stores in Japan’s urban cities, as well as expand online sales via its website and other e-commerce platforms.

In the future, Moacal is looking to start in-house production and establish itself as a local caffeine-free beverage maker.

Plans to expand the product portfolio are also in the pipeline. For instance, the firm is in the midst of developing an iced coffee beverage to be rolled out in summer.

“The iced beverage will be perfect for the season. It will be packaged in bottles, which will make great gifts. We are also considering selling it in a size that is easy to carry around.”

In addition, the firm revealed that product development will extend beyond coffee and be based on the concept of “decaf functionality”.

Nakamura cited rooibos tea, soy milk, and craft tea using traditional Chinese medicine as categories that CUNAE will be focusing on going forward.

Related topics Markets