May 24, 2006 -- Care for a fresh breath of oxygen to go?
Japanese consumers can get cans of oxygen to take home.
Now, 7-Eleven Japan is selling cans of O2 Supli in two scents -- strong mint and grapefruit. O2 is available at 7-Eleven stores in major cities and by June will be on sale in 8,000 stores across Japan.
The company does not claim that there are any medical benefits of using oxygen-to-go products, but many believe that high levels of oxygen reduce stress and alleviate fatigue. 7-Eleven says the grapefruit and mint scents are also therapeutic.
"Health seems to be a concern for a lot of Japanese across different age spectrums," said Mayumi Itou, a 7-Eleven public spokesperson.
"We were not sure how people would react to the idea of paying for oxygen but rather than wondering what might happen, we decided to put the product to the test."
The can, which contains 95 percent concentrated oxygen, hasn't convinced everyone. A can costs about $5 or 600 yen.
Yasuhiro Kubota, 28, of Tokyo, says although he makes various purchases at 7-Eleven, he isn't likely to pick up a can of O2.
"I'm not sure if I want to spend 600 yen for oxygen," he said, although he said that he had felt his head clear after inhaling the peppermint-scented oxygen for a few seconds. "That's a little too new of a concept for me."
An O2 can contains an aroma sheet inside the cap, which doubles as a mask. Once you've chosen a scent, you place the aroma sheet inside the mask and press a lever that lets you inhale.
The cans can last for about 10 days. … That's about 18 cents per inhale.
Oxygen for Sale?
Japanese consumers seem to have taken a liking to O2 pick-me-up products. About 3,000 cans of O2 Supli were sold in a single business day, according to 7-Eleven Japan.
One fan found the grapefruit-scented oxygen refreshing.
"I am in an office where so many people are cramped in a tiny space," Taeko Kobayashi said. "I don't think the quality of air is good there so I can certainly use help from good quality oxygen."
Until now most oxygen products have only been available to athletes and mountain hikers, although oxygen bars have sprouted across the country in the last few years.
Wing, the first company to open one such bar in Japan, says many of its customers are in their late 40s, and often come more than once a week.
Mineral water with high oxygen content is also gaining popularity.
Asahi Soft Drink, an affiliate of Asahi Breweries, introduced high-oxygen-content mineral water at convenience stores across the country two weeks ago.
The water contains five times more oxygen than regular water, according to Asahi. Sales have been brisk, encouraging another major beverage company, Suntory, to start selling high-oxygen sparkling mineral water.
Some are still not used to the idea of buying oxygen, though. For a long time, the Japanese thought they would never have to pay for three items: water, air and safety. When mineral water came into the retail market in the early '80s, a lot of Japanese consumers didn't buy it.
Things have changed. In 2005, mineral water sales in Japan reached $1.2 billion with more than 500 different types of mineral water stocking aisles in most department stores.
In Japan, 7-Eleven hopes oxygen-to-go will enjoy the same success.