Christmas sparks boom in KFC sales in Japan

Japan has celebrated Christmas with KFC since the 70s

Japan's long-held tradition of celebrating Christmas with KFC has lifted poultry farmers after the industry culled half a million birds in November and December 2016 following a bird flu outbreak.

Data released by Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC), which has a strong market share in Japan, has shown that sales continued to rise this past festive season, with the firm achieving 7.9% sales growth over 23-25 December year-on-year, with sales of JP¥5.92 billion (US$51.4m).

The custom can be traced back to 1974, when Takeshi Okawara, manager of the country’s first KFC, launched an original chicken Party Barrel as a substitute for turkey, accompanied by a hugely successful marketing campaign entitled ‘Kentucky for Christmas’. Today, about 3.6 million families in Japan have KFC for Christmas. “Our Christmas customers have been with us since the early days of KFC for Christmas and we continue to gain new customers,” said Tomoko Moro, spokesperson for the firm.

On 1 November 2016, KFC opened an in-store and online order system for its Christmas products and offered three Christmas packages: the Party Barrel; a Christmas pack, which was launched in 1985 and includes chicken pieces, a salad and a chocolate cake; and a premium half roast chicken. The firm’s success has prompted domestic fast food chains and convenience stores to tap the market.

Optimistic trend is not a fad

Japanese hamburger chain MOS BURGER markets its MOS chicken for Christmas by “preparing gorgeous packages and offering coupons”, according to Minako Morino, a spokesperson for MOS Food Services Inc.

While sales on 24 December 2016, were up 8% year-on-year, total sales over the three-day period were similar to 2015 levels, but Morino was still optimistic for the future: “Since the ratio of orders was higher than usual, we are considering further promotions for Christmas,” she said. “And our chicken performed well over 29 December–3 January, with sales up 9% on the previous year, as we were able to cater to the needs of parties and families.

Meanwhile, Ken Ishibashi, of Japanese convenience store franchise FamilyMart’s corporate communications department said the firm’s 2016 sales figures had shown little change on 2015, due to the adverse effect of Christmas falling on a weekend: “Many people buy chicken at FamilyMart on the way home from work, but on the weekend, people are more likely to eat at a restaurant.

FamilyMart offers more Christmas chicken packages suitable for two or three people to accommodate the large number of people having their meals in small groups and the trend to eat more side dishes with meals.

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