May 05, 2021 at 11:27PM

Mother’s Day, like the December holidays, is a holiday whose main traditions involve gift giving. Compared to the December holidays, however, Mother’s Day has a more limited set of appropriate presents — one rarely receives a PS5 or a Barbie Dreamhouse for Mother’s Day. This poses an opportunity for brands and retailers to capture consumers’ spending by offering holiday-specific gift sets and deals. This year, according to the National Retail Federation (NRF) Mother’s Day Data Center, these shoppers are expected to spend more than ever, with average expected spending per person totaling $220.48, up 8 percent from the previous record, and with total spending expected to amount to $28.1 billion, a 5 percent increase.

Taking advantage of the occasion, matcha and appliance brand Cuzen Matcha is attracting holiday shoppers with its Mother’s Day Starter Kit, which promises not only a unique and carefully curated gift set but also, as late shoppers stress about shipping times, a palliative for their anxieties — limited-time Mother’s Day overnight shipping.

“Cuzen has always been used as a gift, and Mother’s Day is the largest gift giving holiday beyond the holidays, so we wanted to capture the demand,” Eijiro Tsukada, founder and CEO of Cuzen Matcha, told PYMNTS in an interview. “Plus, since matcha is healthy, our gift can be a perfect gift for those moms who want to live healthily … Consumers are looking for using organic/natural ingredients, evidence/facts/reasons to support health benefits, and sustainability in every aspect.”

The kit features one of Cuzen Matcha’s Matcha Maker machines, which stores leaves, grinds them, and whisks the matcha with water for drinking. It also features the matcha leaves, a recipe book and a personalized Mother’s Day card.

Matcha’s Enthusiast Customers

As far as the health benefits Tsukada mentioned, matcha has benefitted from the across-the-board swell in consumer interest in wellness-oriented foods and drinks, which also includes the growing market for plant-based foods and non-alcoholic drinks. As consumers look to cut out ingredients that could have a negative impact on how they feel, matcha, which is known for offering a more relaxed sense of alertness than the relatively agitating boost that comes from other caffeinated beverages, has attracted fans.

Discussing his hopes for the brand down the line, “I hope that more and more people who are seeking alternative energy beyond coffee finally discover [our products] and they live a healthier life with Cuzen,” Tsukada said.

Consumer awareness of matcha has steadily grown in the United States over the last decade, with a Google Trends analysis revealing the beverage was nearly unheard of in the U.S. in 2011 and that awareness of the drink rapidly increased in following years, reaching an all-time high in the past year or so. With this increased interest in the drink comes increased expertise from matcha enthusiasts both about the quality of the product and about the issues facing the matcha industry. This is the group to which Cuzen targets its offerings.

“More and more consumers are looking for a more authentic (high-quality) matcha experience in daily life, after having tried ‘not authentic matcha,’ which is pre-mixed/sweetened matcha at many cafes,” said Tsukada. “We deliver the highest quality of matcha to our customers, which in return will help sustain the tea farmers in Japan who are suffering from the decreasing domestic demand for high-quality leaves.”

Of course, high quality comes at a high price. 60 grams of the brand’s Premium blend costs $82, or $69.70 for those who opt for the monthly subscription.

Growing Through The Pandemic

The brand received an off-the-bat boost when it officially launched in October, having initially built a following on Kickstarter, where its 357 backers pledged $117,761. The launch received a boost from the awards that the company’s Matcha Maker machine had won before hitting the market, including a Future of Foods Award from San Francisco Design Week and official recognition from the CES (Consumer Electronic Show) Innovation Awards and from the Dezeen Awards. Still, the mid-pandemic launch was negatively impacted by the company’s inability to safely hold sampling events.

“It was very challenging, as in-person activities were very limited. It has been very difficult to sell a new concept of matcha without offering a tasting opportunity,” recalled Tsukada. “ But our early customers, including Kickstarter backers, have helped us a lot. They love Cuzen and promote it among their friends.”

Another advantage for Cuzen launching during this time is that consumers have grown increasingly accustomed to purchasing packaged food and beverage items from direct-to-consumer (D2C) online shops such as Cuzen’s during the pandemic. PYMNTS’ D2C And The New Brand Loyalty Opportunity study revealed that 60.6 percent of consumers have used D2C sites “somewhat” or “much more” since the pandemic began to purchase food and beverages, compared to 59.9 percent who have increased their use of online marketplaces for such purchases.

Owning The Matcha Experience

By selling the machine and the un-ground leaves, Cuzen Matcha controls its customers’ matcha-making routines. After all, other D2C matcha brands tend to sell either bottled beverages or pre-ground mixtures. In Tsukada’s words, “We are very unique and I don’t think there are direct competitors.”

Of course, the business model exists in other spaces. Keurig, for instance, sells both the machine and the pods, and kitchen tech and meal-kit subscription company Tovala provides preassembled ingredient sets to be auto-cooked in its Wi-Fi-enabled smart oven, selling both the appliance and the food. However, the matcha drinker who would buy Cuzen’s machines more closely resembles the coffee drinker who would buy whole beans and a grinder, an enthusiast looking for the freshest possible beverage experience. By selling an entire product journey, rather than the discrete parts, Cuzen is able to tap into the connected economy, making its brand a key part of consumers’ morning (or afternoon) routine.

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