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FOODEX Japan is Asia’s largest food and beverage show. The 29th consecutive International Food and Beverage Exhibition was held from March 9th – 12th 2004 near Tokyo, Japan. The theme of the show, aptly named, was “From the World to Japan, From Japan to the World.” It seemed as if the whole world was there, too! There were 2,515 companies exhibiting, representing an astounding multi-cultural gathering from 78 countries. The number of visitors during the 4-day dynamic, trade-only show was a record 98,920 persons hungry to view the current trends and new products coming to international food and beverage markets.
Non-Japanese exhibitors accounted for 60% of the total Exhibition scale. While the predominant representation was by Europe and the Americas, the show this year received bigger interest from Asia. Significant increases in participation were seen from Korea (kim-chee, snack food, and local fresh food), China (tea and herbs), Thailand (sauces, fruits and sweets), Taiwan, Hong Kong and India. It is evident by this show that newly developed countries like Vietnam, Brazil and Turkey are becoming substantial players on the international food and beverage stage. American food and beverage brands no longer rule alone, and need to re-invent themselves continually and promote their products actively in order to maintain awareness and competitiveness.

Healthy, Organic Products Dominate

The overwhelming feature of the show was product exhibits that were “safe,” “organic,” “natural,” and “naturally-occurring.” These segments are becoming key buzzwords increasingly relevant to today’s growing health-conscious population. European and American companies still lead the healthy, organic category, however it is clear that other countries are seeking to learn and replicate similar products in their home markets.
The Exhibition’s “Organic and Natural Plaza” featured products that have been approved as organic (certified organic) or natural (farmed using reduced/no chemicals). There were several imported organic foods exhibited (mainly from the U.S. and Europe) including sugar, condiments, dressings and cereals, as well as beverages such as wine and juices.
A related theme was the “Foodex Health Plaza,” which brought together foodstuffs for specific health usage and/or nutrient function, supplements, nutritionally fortified health-oriented products and natural foods. Although it is well known that the health trend is sweeping the mature food and beverage markets such as the United States, there is also a gradual opening of the lucrative Japanese health and nutrition market.

Home Meal Replacement Growing

There were several other product categories featured prominently at the show this year, as well. Home Meal Replacement (HMR) was a focus and is particularly relevant given the large number of working women in Asia and throughout the developed world. The Japanese call this food nakashoku (food eaten at home but cooked elsewhere), and is a rapidly growing trend in Japan. This affords U.S. convenient food and beverage manufacturers multiple opportunities to penetrate Japan and other fast-growing markets.
Japanese cuisine such as sushi and yakatori beef continues to heighten their appeal around the world. FOODEX Japan 2004 was an exciting opportunity to discover Japanese regional foods and beverages yet to be marketed abroad. No doubt more Japanese food and beverage companies – such as ITO-EN that has launched successfully a range of ready-to-drink green and oolong teas in PET bottles in the U.S. under the TEAS’ TEA brand – will be present in North America in the near future. Several of these Japanese dishes were prepared in live cooking demonstrations at the show.
While Japanese consumers still consider imported food less safe than local cuisine, Japanese dishes are not the only food consumed in Japan. In fact, Japan is the world’s largest food importer, and the U.S. it’s biggest supplier. The top 5 issues and trends today in the Japanese food and beverage market are as follows:

  • Food safety / trace ability
  • Aging population – 25% of Japanese will be over 65 years old by 2015 (the number of single households, both youth and elderly, is increasing)
  • Health boom – functional / organic / “medical” foods
  • Convenience
  • Value-added / premium – consumers are willing to pay more for “small luxuries”

In general there are huge opportunities for innovative U.S. food and beverage producers to penetrate the Japanese market. Products with high potential include organic food and beverages, snack foods and chocolates, juice and nutritional supplement drinks, specialty tea, cocoa powder, coffee and wine, and fruits and fruit juices.

Tea and Coffee Has Large Presence

The “Tea and Coffee Plaza” was another main feature of the Exhibition. Within the Japanese beverage market, arguably the most competitive and innovative market in the world, both the tea and coffee cultures are well established. Coca-Cola manufactures “Georgia” brand ready-to-drink canned coffee, the leading brand in this segment and one of the main contributors to Coke’s profit worldwide (Japan’s more than 5 million vending machines – 1 per every 23 people – help drive canned coffee sales).
The “Tea and Coffee Plaza” encompassed a comprehensive selection of tea (green, black, oolong, herbal), coffee (whole bean, ground, instant, espresso) and related products such as confectionery, chocolate, sweeteners, equipment and supplies.
Finally, in response to increasing consumer demand upon food and beverage producers, the market presence of value-added, specialty food has increased. This niche is still in its infancy in Japan, but is growing rapidly as trend-conscious Japanese consumers become aware of new food and beverages. To heighten appreciation of specialty products, The National Association for the Specialty Food Trade (NASFT), based in New York, displayed the twenty winners of the 31st Annual Products Awards Competition at FOODEX Japan 2004. American specialty food and beverage producers may possess “first mover” export opportunities in several fast-growing product segments.
If all the exhibits, seminars, cooking demonstrations and copious amounts of deal-making were not enough, then there were also three other international exhibitions concurrent with FOODEX Japan 2004. HOTERES JAPAN 2004, CATEREX JAPAN 2004, and JAPAN FOOD SERVICE EQUIPMENT SHOW, all specializing in the food service industry, were held at a nearby venue.
FOODEX Japan had something for everyone related to the food and beverage industry. It was also an excellent opportunity to see what products are now, or soon will be, on supermarket shelves and caterers kitchens near you.
–Peter M. Guyer
Peter M. Guyer is the Founder and President of ATHENA MARKETING INTERNATIONAL (, an international marketing, consulting and business development firm serving food and beverage manufacturers. Tel. (206) 749-9255.