Japan review: The Top 10 most-read Japan food and beverage stories in 2021

By Guan Yu Lim contact

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Japan review: The Top 10 most-read Japan food and beverage stories in 2021

Related tags: Japan

Read our top 10 most viewed Japan food and beverages stories this year, featuring innovative beverages, packaging and the low-to-no alcohol trend.

1. ‘Nuclear foods’ progress: 15 countries worldwide left still restricting Japanese food from districts stricken by Fukushima disaster

Only 15 countries worldwide were still implementing import restrictions on food items from Japanese districts that were stricken by the Fukushima nuclear power plant meltdown disaster in 2011 – but progress with those that remain may be hard to achieve in the short term.

Over the past few months, several countries in the Middle East have progressively removed all import restrictions previously imposed on foods coming in from Japanese prefectures within the vicinity of the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant disaster, deemed to be associated with radioactive ‘nuclear food’.

The prefectures particularly hard hit by the disaster were those in closest vicinity to the powerplant, particularly Fukushima, Gunma, Ibaraki, Tochigi and Chiba.

2. Drop it then it's hot: Coca-Cola Japan created freeze-dried tea and coffee cubes to reduce packaging waste

Coca-Cola Japan developed a barley tea, green tea and coffee freeze-dried cube under the 1,2,CUBE brand to bring an innovative, convenient, and environmentally friendly solution to the instant beverage market.

Freeze dried coffee and tea are not novel, although it is not common in Japan. It was Coca-Cola Japan’s first product of its kind.

It was made by extracting tea leaves or coffee beans in a concentrate, which was then frozen and vacuumed. The freeze-dried cubes can be added to hot or room temperature water which dissolves entirely.

3. ‘Shackles off’: Japan laid out plant-based labelling rules for meat, dairy, egg and seafood alternatives

Japan had laid out regulations for the labelling of plant-based products, with observers suggesting they were industry-friendly and should not pose problems for brands.

The plant-based industry in Japan had been seeing quite some growth in recent years, with most progress being seen in restaurants experimenting with new menus, bigger conventional meat product manufacturers such as Nippon Ham and Ito Ham launching plant-based alternatives, as well as a few dedicated firms such as NEXT Meats having come into the picture.

However, the government appeared unsatisfied with the industry’s rate of progress so far, and has thus implemented new labelling rules to govern the plant-based sector in hope that this would propel its growth.

4. Flipping the lid: Nissin cut plastic use with new cup noodle packaging innovation

Nissin had eliminated the use of lid-closing stickers on its cup noodle packaging, replaced it with a new innovation, in a bid to reduce plastic waste.

Previously, the sticker kept the lid shut after hot water was poured into the cup noodle container, however it was made from plastic.

The new double flap lid offered the same action, with a W shape flap to keep the lid shut.

 5. ‘Plant-based coffees’: Nestle Japan targeted health and sustainability seekers with new product offerings

Nestle Japan launched two ‘plant-based coffee’ ranges as it maximised the appeal of one of the nation’s most-consumed beverages while tapping into one of the hottest consumer trends.

According to Nestle Japan, the market for plant-based foods and beverages was rapidly growing locally, particularly amongst consumers interested in healthy food and lifestyle, or in ethical consumption, a key driver for the firm to get in on the trend.

[Research has shown that] the domestic market has grown significantly with a gain of 9% year-on-year to JPY211bn in FY2019, and [there was] an estimated 11% increase to JPY233bn in FY2020 - Some estimates suggest that this could expand to JPY291bn in five years​,” a Nestle Japan spokesman told FoodNavigator-Asia​ via an email statement.

6. Healthy snacking in Japan and China: Italy’s Frutteto enjoyed rich pickings with innovative ‘ambient frozen’ range

Italian frozen fruit snack company Frutteto have started manufacturing part of its products in Japan, its largest market, and also launched in China in 2021.

First launched in Denmark in 2019, the Italian firm is known for its frozen natural fruit puree products, touted as a healthier alternative to sugar-ladled ice pops.

Although it is a frozen fruit snack, it is sold as an ambient product: “The idea is that the consumer takes it home, and put it in the freezer​,” said Greig Gilbert, managing director of Frutteto.

7. No-to-low push: Asahi released Beery range amid drive to triple low alcohol sales by 2025

Asahi Breweries launched a new carbonated low alcoholic drink called Beery as part of its drive to see sales of products at 3.5% ABV or lower increase from 6% to 20% by 2025.

To kickstart this, the company introduced Beery, a 0.5% alcoholic beer-tasting drink in March 2021 in Tokyo and several other prefectures, followed by a nationwide launch in June.

The drink is available in supermarkets, convenience stores and off-trade outlets.

8. Colour psychology: It’s red for Taiwan and blue for Japan for energy drink labels

Taiwanese consumers associated the colour red with energy drinks, while Japanese consumers tend to associate blue, according to a study.

Researchers in Taiwan and Japan wanted to demonstrate that colours influenced consumer’s perceptions of an energy drink properties, and that perception was based on cultural backgrounds, even within East Asian countries.

In the study, they also found that specific colours were more closely associated to certain properties, for instance, black for stimulants like caffeine, green for dietary fiber, and yellow for nourishment.

9. Salt reduction in Asia: Ajinomoto on regional nutritional focus with umami key to reformulation

Japanese F&B giant Ajinomoto revealed its nutritional strategy for Asia focused on salt reduction with umami flavour at the heart of its reformulation drive.

Ajinomoto’s plans for Asia is part of its larger global nutrition strategy dubbed ‘Nutrition Without Compromise’, but for this region in particular, salt reformulation and increasing protein intake are particularly important due to public health and demographic concerns.

High salt intake is linked with high blood pressure, which is in turn linked with various public health concerns such as stroke, heart disease and cognitive health impairment. In Asia, several countries are now taking over double the recommended daily amount of salt​,” Manasi Pethkar from the Ajinomoto Science Group & Planning Group, Global Communications Department told FoodNavigator-Asia.

10. Strange but true: Nissin’s not-so-mysterious meat cup noodle series continued to soar in Japan

Japanese instant noodle manufacturer Nissin Food Products extended its hugely popular mystery meat cup noodle series with a new kimchi flavour hitting the shelves.

The series was first launched in 2016, and was a huge marketing success for the brand…even if there wasn’t really much of a mystery around the meat used at all.

The ingredient list always referred to the product containing seasoned minced pork, but the company later admitted it was a mixture of pork and soybeans.

Related topics: Markets, Japan, East Asia

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