Special Focus: Food & Drink

This month in the “Special Focus” section, we focus on the Food & Drink sector in Japan.

Information on the various related sub-sectors and the latest reports are available on the following links. 


Japan’s status as a cultural superpower is perhaps best exemplified by the global popularity of Japanese cuisine. In addition to its international popularity, Japanese food also enjoys a reputation for promoting health and longevity, with its traditional emphasis on rice, fish and seasonal ingredients. In 2013, UNESCO added “washoku – traditional dietary cultures of the Japanese” to its Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. To read more, please see below:

About Food & Beverage

Europe is the foremost exporter of liquor and wine worldwide, and the Japanese liquor market is one of the biggest in the world with annual sales estimated at over 6 trillion yen.  However, imports of foreign alcohol comprise a mere 6% of the total Japanese liquor market, include beer and beer-like products. The principal reasons for this are that while the Japanese government has reduced taxes on liquor, Japan still has a lot of work to do in terms of applying international standards for product definitions and in eliminating non-tariff barriers to market access. To read more, please see below:


Japan is both one of the world’s most technologically advanced nations and also a small-scale agricultural producer, making it a major importer of wheat and other cereals. The Japanese grain processing sector, especially its feed sector, was hit hard by the Great East Japan Earthquake of March 2011, but recovery efforts have been highly successful. For more information, please click on the link below:


Despite weak economic growth, Japan still possesses the largest and most mature confectionary market in the Asia-Pacific region. In particular, demand for sugar confectionary is expected to grow rapidly between 2012-2017, helped by increased competition between pharmaceutical companies – marketing medicated sweets and vitamin-enriched lozenges – as well as ordinary companies selling more traditional Japanese confectionary. For more information, please click on the link below:


The Japanese dairy sector has recently experienced a sustained period of strong growth. The dairy sector is the third largest in Japanese industry and will observe the fifth largest increase in the same period. The Japanese are developing a strong appetite for dairy products such as milk cheese and butter, items which do not feature in traditional Japanese cuisine and diets, making it an ideal sector for European SME investment. For more information, please click on the link below:


The Japanese processed food market has traditionally been regarded as difficult to enter. However a the growing popularity of convenient and economical ready-to-eat meals which has opened up the market to foreign investors is being brought about by a combination of factors: The high-powered and fast-paced lifestyle of the stereotypical Japanese worker, the growing number of “single-person” households as well as the increasing popularity of convenience stores in Japan have all helped to fuel growth in Japan’s processed food market as an alternative to traditional home-cooked meals. For more information, please click on the link below:

Processed & Frozen Foods

Japan has one of the largest health food markets in the world, and also has the market with the strictest regulations. In an ageing market, health food is especially important in the minds of consumers and it can therefore be difficult to gain accreditation, or to make certain claims about foods. It may be necessary to partner with an organisation with laboratory facilities in order to meet the requirements, should you wish to make health benefit claims in the Japanese market. For more information, please click on the link below:

Functional & Health Foods

According to trade reports by the Japanese Ministry of Finance, the market condition of imported meat is 46,000t for beef, 61,000t for pork and 45,000t for chicken. While the volume of imported pork is decreasing, beef and chicken are gaining popularity. For more information, please click on the link below:


The current mood of optimism in Japan which is a result of the proactive economic policies of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is expected to have a positive effect on the soft drinks market in Japan. With predicted compound annual growth rates of 3.5% for the period 2012-17, the future of the Japanese soft drinks industry looks bright. For more information, please click on the link below:

Soft Drinks



This report from the EU-Japan Centre provides a useful summary on distribution networks in Japan in food and wine, ICT and medical devices sectors. It also identifies most commonly used import routes for EU products and services and provides a number of recommendations from interviewed Japanese and European managers on key factors to succeed in Japan. To read the report, please click on the link below:

Guide on Importers and Wholesale Distributors 

This report provides an overview of the agricultural biotechnology sector in Japan. Specifically, this report  offers information and advice for EU companies interested in breaking into the Japanese agricultural biotechnology market; a summary of Japanese government regulations in this area and what steps EU companies will need to take in order to satisfy them; summaries both of the Japanese food and agriculture products and production sectors as well as the opportunities they offer for EU companies. To read the report, please click on the link below:

Biotechnology-related Food and Agricultural Products in Japan

Importing and distributing food and food packaging is highly regulated in Japan. Especially in retail, packaging is an indispensable part of the product, not only for protection, but also to provide advertising and information for the consumer. Hence, this report examines conditions for exporting food packaging to Japan, whether as part of a food shipment or for selling to food manufacturers in Japan. It suggests that packaging, as the final part of the production process for food, plays an important role in food safety and for traceability management systems, a separate chapter also covers food safety and traceability measures in Japan. To read the report, please click on the link below:

Packaging for the food market in Japan

This report titled 'Food and Beverages: Regional Food Products' provides an overview of the regional food products market in Japan. It provides market insights and information about current food trends in Japan as well as expectations of Japanese consumers regarding imported regional food products. It also examines various regulations for importing and selling regional food products in Japan, and highlights relevant pieces of Japanese government legislation. To read the report, please click on the link below: 

Regional Food Products in Japan

The EU has a high per capita demand and is the world’s largest fish consumer, hence this paper suggests that Europe could be a prospective market for a wide range of Japanese food products. For European companies to seize this business opportunity, this report examines key questions, such as why and what kind of Japanese food products could be imported to the EU? To read the report, please click on the link below:

Importing Japanese Food into the EU

This report discusses many of the main management and strategic issues for EU FMCG companies seeking to improve distribution in Japan. It suggests that not only is Japan a very difficult market, but achieving FMCG product success ranks among the most challenging endeavours. No matter what an EU FMCG company’s product offerings - whether disposable cosmetics or children’s candy - Japan already has hundreds, sometimes thousands, of competitive products already in the market and already known to lots of consumers. To read the report, please click on the link below:

Distribution Channels for Fast-Moving Consumer Goods

This report aims to contribute to the support of EU exporters of food products to Japan. In this sense, it provides an analysis of the economic and demographic situation of Japan as well as of its level of trade integration in order to highlight how these factors affect the local demand and supply as well as the market access for EU agribusinesses. The reports also identifies trends in this changing market which, in the favourable context of the forthcoming EU-Japan EPA, are likely to bring opportunities to European exporters of agri-food products. To read the report, please click on the link below:

The Japanese Agrifood Market