FoodEx Japan

Hojicha's hot: Japanese roasted green tea used in new products from ice cream to pasta

By Lester Wan

- Last updated on GMT

There have been about 90 hojicha drinks and hojicha-flavoured food products launched in the past year in Japan alone. ©GettyImages
There have been about 90 hojicha drinks and hojicha-flavoured food products launched in the past year in Japan alone. ©GettyImages

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The increasing popularity of Japanese roasted green tea, hojicha, is spurring a raft of new product development in the country, from ice cream to pasta.

Data from market research firm Intage Inc. indicates that there have been about 90 hojicha drinks and hojicha-flavoured food products launched in the past year alone.

According to Intage, Hojicha’s share of the market for sugar-free tea products in Japan is 3.5%, much lower than 53% percent for sencha green tea, for example.

However, sales have been steadily increasing, and the market share of hojicha drinks and flavoured food products is rapidly growing.

Intage said sales of hojicha beverages in 2016 added up to about ¥14bn — around 30% growth from 2012. Last year saw consistently high sales, worth about ¥10.1bbn just from January to September.

The findings come ahead of the start of the FoodEx Japan show in Tokyo, where hundreds of Japanese firms will be showcasing their goods to domestic and international buyers.

Number of food products burgeoning

Mintel senior consultant Toshie Koshiga told us that hojicha's popularity was set to continue, especially in ready-to-drink beverages and desserts. 

Last year, Haagen-Dazs launched a hojicha latte mini-cup ice cream that cost ¥294 (about US$2.50). It was very quickly sold out but the company re-released it in October.

The Lawson Inc. chain of stores began selling hojicha latte in November, dispensed by machines next to their cash register. Asahi Shimbun​ reported that the hojicha latte exceeded expected sales by more than by 50%.

More recently, Lawson’s hojicha-flavoured range of products has begun to include staple food such as rice and pasta.

Also in November, Seven-Eleven Japan Co. released a dessert with hojicha-flavoured mousse and brown sugar kanten jelly.

Just before Christmas, FamilyMart Co., in collaboration with Ito En Ltd., a tea and beverage manufacturer, released a limited run of 500,000 cups of kobashi hojicha latte. “Kobashi” means fragrant.

Lawson and FamilyMart also released limited edition hojicha-flavoured sweets during autumn.

Cafes have also been jumping on the bandwagon, releasing various hojicha tea drinks. Starbucks launched a limited edition hojicha frappucino in September. It was available until October 1.

Unique taste and health benefits

Hojicha is made by roasting sencha or other varieties of tea leaves at a very high temperature. This process not only gifts it with a unique taste and aroma but also reduces its caffeine content.

Hojicha contains only 20mg caffeine per 100g, significantly lower than black tea or coffee, making it more suitable for the young and the elderly.

Koshiga of Mintel said that the growing popularity of hojicha lies in its health benefits, especially in its key components of Theanine and Catechin. Theanine has a relaxing effect while catechin helps to lower cholesterol levels and burn body fat. It is also reported to have an antibacterial quality, which can help to prevent flu.

Coupled with a Japanese market whose consumers are constantly growing in health-consciousness, the conditions are ripe for the success of hojicha products.

In fact, hojicha is so popular in Japan now that there is even hojicha-scented perfume.

Healthy Ageing - Logo - final

Healthy Ageing APAC Summit 2018: Our next event will assess how the food and nutrition industry can meet the needs of APAC’s rapidly-ageing populations of today and tomorrow. The event, in Singapore on June 12 and 13, will bring together policymakers, academics and industry experts from the likes of Nestle, Blackmores, Swisse and Japanese ‘engay’ food pioneers Nutri co.  Find out more here​.

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