The processed food area covers an extremely diverse area of products, ranging from vegetables through to complete, ready-to-eat meal solutions, canned preserved food, and the complex mixtures of ingredients that are utilised in the preparation of these products.

Japan has been hit by a number of food safety and false labelling scandals in both domestically produced and imported food products. Traceability and safety of food products draws more attention to consumers in Japan. There is an increasing awareness by Japanese buyers and consumers that Australia is a reliable and safe origin for processed foods.

As a result of the global financial crisis, a growing penchant for discounting amongst Japan’s leading retail chains resulted in most product areas seeing unit price decline, which has led to a prolonged deflation. Over the forecast period, packaged foods sales are expected to show decline through to 2014, which will result in the deflation to continue. Consumers becoming more cautious about spending and the decline of domestic demand for packaged foods, will in turn, make the manufacturers consider looking to overseas sales for future growth.

Consumer demand for organic foods and healthy food and beverage in Japan is increasing due to a rapid increase of the ageing population, as well as consumers’ health consciousness. All organic foods sold after March 2001 must be produced in accordance with the new Japan Agricultural Standard (JAS), which was introduced by the Minister of Agriculture.


Japanese manufacturers, processors, restaurant chains, supermarkets, and convenience store chains are all interested in safe, price-competitive and value-added products from overseas.

  • Processed products based on crops, meat, dairy and grains.
  • Offer unique attributes and selling points of products.
  • Nicely designed packaged gourmet food products.
  • Shelf life to be over 12 months and kept in ambient temperature.
  • Products that appeal to health-conscious Japanese buyers, eg. organic products and use of natural ingredients with the least amount of additives and preservatives.
  • Product that has traceability and is antibiotic-free.
  • Products especially tailored to Japanese buyers’ specifications.
With the strong influence of the Western lifestyle, consumers have more access to purchase imported food products that are current sold through various channels such as department stores, speciality food stores, supermarkets and the Internet.
Potential buyers of your products include:

  • Existing importers or distributors for the product
  • Japanese food manufacturers who further process your products to produce finished products in Japan
  • Japanese food service industry for pre-cooked meals and sauces
  • Supermarkets as suppliers of their own private labels
The Japanese processed food market is very sophisticated – catering for increasingly quality and price conscious consumers. The population is also ageing and becoming more health-conscious, which is leading to increased potential for products stressing health benefits and demonstrable lower chemical and or organic status.
Suppliers like to be informed of the origins of their business partner in order to assess production capability. This is especially true for products with traceability and organic products. It is advised that you prepare detailed information sheets about company owners and top-level staff to prove consistency and continuity of stable management and quality control practices.
It is important that any contracts and business documents are fully understood by both sides as it is sometimes challenging for those unfamiliar with the environment to communicate effectively with Japanese companies.
Distribution channels
The traditional distribution channels for processed food are multi-layered and relatively complex with personal, historical and financial relations playing their part in the decision making process.
There is a trend to simplifying the channels of distribution, and bypassing the bigger trading companies, in order to import directly from the suppliers. Each product in the food and beverage industry has its own specialised wholesaler. You will need to investigate the market, competition, regulations, and available channels to determine the best route to distribute your products.
Japan would be an extraordinary market for the Spanish companies. Japan has a high competitive processed food market with an increasing number of buyers and consumers. Who becoming more cautious about spending and the decline of domestic demand for packaged foods, will in turn, make the manufacturers consider looking to overseas sales for future growth.

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