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Japanese consumers look for trendy American foods

April 1, 2023
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Why this is important to Wisconsin businesses: Wisconsin food producers and suppliers may find market opportunities in Japan.

Food and beverage sales declined in Japan in 2021 as the post-pandemic environment set in, but consumers in Japan still hunger for U.S. food innovations.

The food and beverage industry recorded $467.2 billion in sales in 2021, down 2.3% from the $478.1 billion in 2020, according to a report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service.

Supermarkets dominate the retail food market in Japan, with 74% of sales. During the height of the pandemic in 2020, consumers cooked at home more often and they flocked to their local grocery stores for ingredients, but by 2021, home cooking was less of a necessity. In addition, the report attributes the decline to the dollar’s strength over the yen.

The U.S. is the largest supplier of food and agricultural imports to Japan, the Foreign Agricultural Service said. Japan is the fourth-largest purchaser of U.S. agricultural products, with those purchases totaling $15.6 billion in 2021.

For producers in Wisconsin and across the U.S., the best prospects for product sales to Japan include pork, beef, processed vegetables, soybeans, and wheat and wheat products, the report said. Fruit, tree nuts, whiskey, wine, and beer imports are also gaining popularity, and 90% of the cheese eaten in Japan is imported.

Japanese consumers are strongly influenced by U.S. specialty foods and trends, and they are increasingly seeking out healthy foods, the report said.

Wisconsin companies interested in exporting their food and agricultural products to Japan should focus on the quality of their goods, safety measures, and health-related benefits. They should also relate their products to U.S. culture and trends, and provide information on how their products can be prepared and used.

Strategies for entering the market can vary based on the product, but trade shows generate interest and are an effective way to introduce new products. Supermarket Trade Show, held every February, and FOODEX Japan, held every March, are among the largest industry exhibitions.

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