TOKYO: Environmentally-friendly goods and own-label brands were among the product launches that made the biggest impression on Japanese consumers this year, according to Dentsu.

Dentsu's Center for Consumer Studies conducted an online poll of 1,000 adults, in order to discover which innovations had secured the highest levels of recognition, popularity and overall interest in the country.

Hybrid cars, such as the Toyota Prius, took the top spot, up from 24th position last year, while eco-friendly models eligible for tax discounts were in fourth, and electric vehicles in eighth.

On a similar theme, "eco-point energy-saving home appliances" were ranked in fifth, with solar panels and heat generation systems also coming just inside the top 20.

Japan is one of the world's biggest luxury markets, but, in-keeping with previous research reporting that attitudes in the Asian nation are changing, Dentsu found more shoppers now seem to be favouring the other end of spectrum.

This included low-priced domestic fashions, in third on its list, own-label brands, in ninth, B-grade products, in tenth, and jeans costing less than ¥1,000 yen ($11; €8; £7), in fourteenth.

Moreover, competitively-priced netbook computers, and goods and services that fell under the auspice of the government's stimulus scheme, both made the list of preferred offerings.

In the technology category, digitally-enabled widescreen flat-panel televisions and LED lightbulbs both generated positive feedback, as did "heat-generating and heat-retaining underwear."

In the beverage segment, alcohol-free "beer-like" drinks were also mentioned by Dentsu's panel as being among the most memorable introductions to the market during 2009.

Flu masks were actually in second position, however, following on from the rising numbers of cases of swine flu in many countries around the world.

Looking forward, as the recession has "transformed consumption behavior" in Japan, Dentsu predicted spending preferences will continue to develop.

"While fortifying their lives to defend against a prolonged recession, consumers also revealed glimpses of an intention to pursue 'life restructuring' for the 2010s by leveraging the 'art of smart consumption'," it said.

More specifically, "the very concept of pricing will change as goods and services become incomparably inexpensive," a trend that will cut across the hybrid automotive, grocery and apparel sectors.

It also suggested "subtraction and division will replace addition and multiplication in consumer arithmetic," as shown by the rise of concentrated detergents, steamless rice cookers, electronic memo pads and two-way tunic skirts.

More "relaxed" and short-form communications will also increase in prominence, as services like Twitter "bring new warmth to life", and video-sharing portals, recipe sites and "real-time love games" see user numbers further expand.

Finally, with regard to innovation, small modifications, such as soft chewing gum or "foamy hair colour products", are likely to work alongside more substantial developments, like multi-touch PC operating systems and 3D video systems.

Data sourced from Dentsu; additional content by Warc staff