From Ribena to Lucozade: How Suntory blends Japanese heritage and European roots in the UK & Ireland

By Rachel Arthur contact

- Last updated on GMT

Pic:getty/ipopba
Pic:getty/ipopba

Related tags: Lucozade Ribena Suntory, Suntory, Uk, Japan

Ribena-owner Lucozade Ribena Suntory has changed its name to Suntory Beverage & Food GB&I. The move seeks to bring the London-headquartered company closer to Japanese parent Suntory Global – but what does that mean in practice?

From international collobaration on new products to Japanese philosophy, we find out.

Smarter working, collective thinking

Today, Lucozade Ribena Suntory – or Suntory Beverage & Food GB&I as it is called as of this month – counts Orangina, V Energy, Lucozade Energy, Lucozade Sport, and Ribena as part of its portfolio.

The transition to Suntory Beverage & Food GB&I will come with a new corporate brand look, reflecting the company’s ‘global identity, Japanese roots and proud heritage’.

The name change seeks to bring the company closer to parent group Suntory Beverage & Food Europe (other European companies are also aligning their names to this European identity) and ultimately to Suntory Global.

The bigger we are, the greater our positive impact can be which is why this move is so significant for our business,”​ Carol Robert, COO, Suntory Beverage & Food GB&I, told BeverageDaily. Having one shared identity across Europe breaks down barriers, allows for smarter working, collective thinking and provides a shared sense of ownership and accountability, ultimately meaning better outcomes for our customers, consumers and communities.”​ 

Suntory Food & Beverage Europe

Suntory Beverage & Food Europe operates in more than 60 countries, including the EU, overseas EU territories, Northern & West Africa, and the British Caribbean. The company has 3,800 employees and local production facilities in France, Spain and the UK.  

This month’s name change sees the European companies align under the Suntory Beverage & Food name, for example:

  • Orangina Suntory France becomes Suntory Beverage & Food France
  • Schweppes Suntory Espana becomes Suntory Beverage & Food Spain
  • Schweppes Suntory Benelux becomes Suntory Beverage & Food Benelux

Japanese heritage, British roots 

The shared identity links back to Japanese parent company Suntory Global: which started back in 1899 with 20-year-old Shinjiro Torii starting his business as a blender of wine and spirits and is now the world’s third-largest drinks company.

Yet for the GB&I business this needs to be done while still acknowledging the heritage of British household brands Ribena and Lucozade, says Robert. Ribena has been in the UK for more than 75 years; while Lucozade was originally launched even earlier in 1927 (Lucozade and Ribena were previously owned by British pharmaceutical and healthcare giant GlaxoSmithKline, which sold the two brands to Suntory Beverage & Food for £1.35bn back in 2013.)

“Suntory Beverage & Food GB&I is a company inspired by our Japanese heritage, our founder’s belief in giving back to society and a fearless spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship, combined with unique European roots,” ​said Robert.

“As soft drink specialists, Suntory has given us the opportunity to be more agile and responsive, and give our iconic brands – and people - the creative environment that they need to thrive.”

Ribena new carton paper straw

Suntory principles adopted by GB&I include that of Monozukuri (a ‘relentless commitment to quality, craftsmanship and design’); Kaizen (continuous improvement) and Yatte Minahare (‘the bold spirit of ambition’).

“The Japanese principle of ‘Monozukuri’ is also prominent within our business and the production of our drinks. It is a unique Japanese manufacturing style that values continuous improvement and development known as ‘Kaizen’," ​said Robert.

“These principles flow through our Coleford factory and last year, our engineering team had the honour of visiting Tokyo where they won first place at Suntory’s prestigious Kaizen awards.”

New products

Robert says that the GB&I business is able to make the most of expertise from any of Suntory’s other markets around the world: for example with new products launched in the UK and Ireland.

Learning from other markets and sharing ideas is one of the many benefits that come with being part of something bigger. Last year we entered the ready-to-drink tea category with the launch of MayTea, a low-calorie tea-infusion, which was developed using Suntory’s tea expertise.

"The brand has had major success in our French and Belgian markets, and we saw an opportunity to take forward their learnings, adapt them for our own markets and capitalise on the UK’s love affair with tea. A great example of leveraging our global Suntory network. 

“In another example, our Japanese heritage both inspired and informed Merchant’s Heart, our premium spirit enhancer.Created in our state-of-the-art Spanish R&D lab, developed by Japanese experts in flavour and carbonation and tested by our collective of UK bartenders, Merchant’s Heart is the result of a global collaboration.” 

Sustainability

Another part of Suntory’s Japanese philosophy now embraced in the UK, Ireland and Europe is the ‘Mizu To Ikiru promise’ – a concept that values harmony with people and nature.

carol robert LRS
Carol Robert

“The Suntory group and each of its members share a unique set of philosophies that guide everything we do,"​ said Robert. "We’re driven by a shared vision of Growing for Good and we’re committed to our mission; to work in harmony with people and nature.

"Whether that’s investing in new recycling technology to help reach our shared goal of 100% sustainable packaging by 2030, sharing best practice for sustainable sourcing or striving for net zero greenhouse emissions as part of Suntory global 2050 environmental vision.

“All of this is underpinned by our Mizu To Ikiru promise. Water is a precious resource and an integral part of our business which is why we, along with all of Suntory go to great lengths to protect it.” 

An example in the UK is Suntory Beverage and Food GB&I’s investment in a new £13m ($16.6m) bottling line at its Coleford, Gloucestershire factory this year that uses 40% less water and energy: working towards a 15% water reduction across plants. The Coleford factory produces a billion bottles of Lucozade and Ribena a year.

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