Japan going bananas for Philippine food exports as trade chiefs eye record business at FoodEx show

By Gary Scattergood

- Last updated on GMT

Manufacturers and suppliers from the Philippines were hoping for a bumper week of business.
Manufacturers and suppliers from the Philippines were hoping for a bumper week of business.

Related tags Fruit Japan

The 17-strong delegation of Philippine food firms showcased at FoodEx Japan this week is targetting record total sales topping US$28m from the four-day event – with banana-based products booming in the Far East.

The exhibitors have a strong fruit focus, with products featuring banana, coconut, mango and pineapple, taking centre stage.

According to Rosvi Gaetos, executive director of the Philippines Center for International Trade Exhibitions and Missions (CITEM), Japan is the country’s largest destination for fresh food, and second only to the US for processed goods, with business boosted by trade agreements.

“With the existing Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement [Jpepa], Japan provides an attractive and vast market for Philippine food suppliers to serve the retail, food service and manufacturing industries,” ​he said.

“Through this participation, Philippine companies can benchmark and update themselves on the demands and current regulations of the Japanese market.”

Bananas from the Philippines account for 90% of the total consumer in Japan, with spin-offs such as banana chips becoming increasingly popular.

“The Japanese have an intergenerational love affair with Philippine bananas,”​ Gaetos said. “We plan to introduce new twists to our ready-to-eat banana chips, of which they show avid fondness.”

Indeed, Martin Badenas, chief technical officer at Prime Fruits, said 40% of the firm’s total production of banana chips were destined for Japan – either as finished goods or ingredients for cereals, bars or fruit mixes.

He said that his firm’s thinner and crispier crinkled banana chips had become increasingly popular with Japanese consumers.

“The Japanese like products that are softer and more easy to eat. We still offer the traditional, thicker banana chips, but the lighter ones have become much more popular.”

Key to success in Japan, added Badenas, was the ability for companies to innovate and bring through a steady stream of new products.

“Customers here always want to know what is new, what is coming next, and how we can create products or new versions. That is always very popular in Japan,” ​he added.

Strong food ties

Gaetos pointed out that continued innovation had led exports to Japan to reach $898.83m by the end of last year - nearly 20 percent of the country’s global exports.

Japan and the Philippines’ food ties were strengthened last year when Japan pledged considerable investment for the agricultural sector and committed to import Philippine bananas, pineapples and avocados.

Meanwhile a new report issued this week by CITEM said the Philippines’’ processed foods and non-alcoholic beverage exports grew at an average rate of 14.5% from 2006 to 2014.

Officials say the country is increasingly being recognised as a regional powerhouse for food exports across South East Asia.

“In Asia, a region known to lead the market in global food production, the Philippines stands out as the most exciting and lucrative food business destination,”​ stated the CITEM report.

The food processing sector contributes 50 percent to the country’s total manufacturing output, it added.

Philippine companies participating companies at FoodEx Japan include AgriNurture Inc., AslaxPhils Corp., Benevelle Corp., CJ Uniworld Corp., DLA Naturals Inc., Bleeding Heart Rum Co., Fruits of Life Inc., GSL Premium Food Export Corp., Maharlika Agro-Marine Venture Corp., Pasciolco Agri Ventures, Prime Fruits International Inc., Profood International Corp., Prosource International Inc., Raw Brown Sugar Milling Co. Inc., Republic Biscuit Corp., See’s International Food Mfg. Corp. and Year Luck Food and Industrial Corp.

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