Deep freeze: Demographic changes spur Japan supermarket to target frozen food growth

By Tingmin Koe

- Last updated on GMT

Supermarket chain Ito-Yokado hopes to grow its frozen food category by 10%. ©Getty Images
Supermarket chain Ito-Yokado hopes to grow its frozen food category by 10%. ©Getty Images

Related tags Frozen food Ageing Ito-Yokado

Supermarket chain Ito-Yokado hopes to grow its frozen food category by 10% with the launch of new frozen meals and side-dishes.

Ito-Yokado is a member of convenience chain store Seven & i Holdings – which manages convenience stores, department stores, and specialty stores.

It recently launched the brand “EASE-UP”, which consists of 14 frozen meals and side-dishes, including sushi, clams, noodles, and meat. The frozen food can be consumed after stir frying, boiling or microwaving.

Most of the products were launched on September 24, with the price ranging between 105 yen (cheese chicken wings) and 594 yen (squid and scallop mix with XO sauce).

With the new additions, a 10% increase in the sales of its frozen food category was expected, a spokesman from Seven & i Holdings public relations told FoodNavigator-Asia.

Changing social demographics was the main reason that pushed the demand for frozen products, the spokesman said.

“The ageing population, more women participating in the workforce, and a large number of nucleus households in Japan has contributed to an increase in demand for frozen products,”​ he said.

The firm foresees that the frozen meals will be popular with working housewives and the elderly.

“We are offering these frozen meals to customers who 1) enjoy home cooked food, 2) do not have much time for cooking, and 3) would like meals that come in smaller portion.”

“By introducing the "EASE UP" series, we provide a product line-up, which could be quickly and easily prepared at home, while maintaining a high quality and authentic flavour.”  

Consumption hit new high

Total national consumption of frozen foods hit new record last year, reaching 2,855,330 tons.

This was 4.7% higher than year 2016, according to data​ from the Japan Frozen Food Association. 

Out of which, 1,600,968 tons came from domestic production, while 1,008,783 tons were imported frozen vegetables, and 245,579 tons were processed frozen foods.

Growth was more obvious for frozen fried rice, spaghetti, yakisoba (sauce-fried buckwheat noodles), and gyoza fried dumplings, according to a report from Japan Management Association.

Other popular products included okonomiyaki savoury filled pancakes, gratin, burgers, croquettes, shumai dumplings, and udon.

Japanese companies have also expressed optimism in the domestic frozen food market.

An example is Nichirei Foods, a Japanese firm which develops, manufactures and sells processed and frozen foods.

“We expect the frequency of use of frozen fried rice to continue increasing due to greater needs for more simplified cooking, and improvements in taste and quality from advances in production techniques,”​ the firm said in its FY2018 full year financial report.

It has expanded its frozen fried rice production line at its Funabashi plant in February this year.

It also added a pre-cut salad chicken to its line of frozen products, which has a shelf life of a year and can be used in salad and ramen noodles etc.

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