A Touch of @cinnamon

Back to Contents of Issue: December 2000

Tokyo bakery Recette earns extra bread through its online store and in-store kiosk.

by Kyoko Fujimoto


Mmmm, smell that? It's the Internet permeating all levels of society.
Photograph: Eiko Nishida

INTERNET ENTREPRENEURS COME IN all forms in Japan. Take Meiko Tanaka. We usually cover people more steeped in technology and business, but Tanaka uses the Net to offer something far more valuable than, say, Web hosting or mobile development: damn good cinnamon bread.

Japanese people are extremely particular about food. Americans especially fail to grasp just how particular they are. Chefs are TV celebrities. If a restaurant is famous for its good food, people will line up for hours to get in, even if the meal is simply a quick bowl of ramen. If there's a good restaurant in a rural area, people from the city will travel for hours to get there. Entire family vacations are planned around where to eat.

Tanaka formerly worked for a computer company, but as a hobby she made natural yeast bread. When the praise for her homemade baking reached a certain pitch among friends and relatives, she got the entrepreneurial bug, quit her job, and opened a bakery called Recette last December in the trendy Tokyo neighborhood of Sangenjaya. She decided to sell the cinnamon bread online only, and set up a Net kiosk in her store for placing orders.

"I knew @Cinnamon would be a big hit if I sold it in the store," says the 24-year-old, "but I wanted to make a different store on the Web, and I knew this bread would make the online store more special."

She officially launched the Web shop in August. There's only one product, @Cinnamon, but she usually gets 10-plus orders a day, and feels the orders are increasing. "I'm amazed how many people are using the Internet. Even many of the housewives in this neighborhood use it," she says. But she says some elderly people have a hard time understanding the idea of ordering through the Internet. "In that case, I use the Internet from the machine in the shop, and order the bread for the customer."

Of course, it's not too unusual to sell food via the Internet in Japan these days. Online mall Rakuten hosts many stores that offer food, and major supermarket chain Seiyu accepts online orders for fresh food delivery in certain areas of Tokyo. What's special about Recette is the way it sells one of its best products only on the Web. This kind of marketing gives @Cinnamon a special added value, which appeals to the Japanese mind-set. Larger clicks-and-mortar shops could take a cue from this tiny bakery.

Note: The function "email this page" is currently not supported for this page.