A working woman living in Tokyo, “Nami” often travels to Seoul and is a regular customer in the Koreatown of Shinjuku. She is a fan of Korean TV dramas and enjoyed watching Dokkaebi. Every day after work, Nami purchases Korean bell peppers and small packages of kimchi at an Aeon supermarket. She is highly conscious about beauty care and keeping a nice figure, so she often makes bell pepper salad, which is rich in vitamins and low in calories. She likes imported Korean kimchi because the products are customized to Japanese preferences so are not spicy and available in small-sized packages.
Over the past ten years, Japan has emerged as the largest import market for Korean foods. Due to political issues between the two countries and a drop in yen value, there has been a decrease in the consumption of Korean foods in Japan. Still, over 20% of Korean food exports are distributed in Japan. There are several reasons why Japan continues to be the main destination for Korean food products. First, there are many Koreans living in Japan. In addition, the number of the Japanese interested in Korean food is steadily increasing. Nami is a typical case of local consumers who are fond of Korean popular culture and curious about Korean cuisine and food products thanks to Hallyu (the Korean wave).
Below, Korea Agrafood introduces Korean foods that have been popular in Japan from the 1990s to now. Let us also take a look at promising products and promotional activities for Korean agriproducts that were carried out at FOODEX JAPAN 2017 from March 7 to 10.
# Korean Steady-Sellers in the Japanese Market
About 60% of the total exports of kimchi from Korea are distributed in Japan. Among the different kinds of kimchi, the Japanese mainly prefer mat-kimchi (sliced kimchi), pogi-kimchi (uncut kimchi), and baek-kimchi (white kimchi). Many products offered these days are designed to match the preferences of local consumers for low-sodium and organic food and specialized products for children. Japanese buyers are also demonstrating an interest in innovative products such as powdered kimchi and convenience kimchi-jjigae (kimchi stew).
◎ Bell Pepper
The Korean bell pepper is renowned for its high quality. The sugar content of Korean bell peppers averages 8.5°Bx, which is higher than that of bell peppers from other countries such as the Netherlands (7.5–8°Bx) and the US (6.5°Bx). Since the early 2000s, Korean bell peppers have firmly maintained an over 75% share in the imported bell pepper market of Japan. Korean mini bell pepper Raon has recently entered the Japanese market and is attracting much attention from local buyers and consumers.
Korean seaweed is considered a must-buy for Japanese tourists visiting Korea. Among various types of Korean seaweed, dried seaweed (for sushi) and seasoned seaweed (for side dishes) are exported to Japan in the largest quantities. Also becoming popular with Japanese consumers these days are organic seasoned seaweed and powdered seasoned seaweed used for rice dishes.
# Hit Products in the Last Twenty Years
Korean rice wine makgeolli gained popularity among young adults in Japan due to its multiple merits: low alcoholicity, abundant fiber, and smooth, sweet taste. Makgeolli festivals are held in Koreatown of Shinjuku in Tokyo every year, and a makgeolli pop-up store is operated in the same area. Last year, AK848―a popular Japanese girl group―was appointed as a goodwill ambassador for makgeolli. The group’s members are actively promoting makgeolli to local consumers.
◎ Vinegar Beverages
The main reason why Korean vinegar beverages have become so popular with the Japanese is the product differentiation. The producers add various fruits, such as blueberry and pomegranate, to the vinegar beverages. The resulting sweet-and-sour taste clearly distinguishes the Korean products from others. Moreover, many Korean food companies employ Hallyu marketing, using Korean idol groups to promote their beverages to young Japanese consumers.
◎ Magic Rose and Herbal Tea
Korean magic roses remain a highly valued product in Japan and are sold at local flower stores at prices three times those of regular fresh roses. The magic rose, which emits luminous colors at night, has attracted the attention of Japanese consumers as a unique gift or as flower to present at a proposal.
Korean herbal tea has a delicious scent and does not taste bitter. It comes in a wide range of types―tangerine peels, balloon flower, quince, and so on. The products are particularly well received by Japanese female consumers who consider them as beauty tea.
# Promising Products in Line with the Japanese Trend for Healthy Lifestyle and Convenience
◎ Dangjo Pepper
The Korean Dangjo pepper is coming into spotlight among the elderly in Japan as a product effective in curbing elevated blood sugar. Since the effects and nutritional value of the pepper were introduced in a Japanese TV program on November of 2016, it has been selling well at the stores of Japanese big distributor UNY. Once it is officially recognized by the Japanese government as a functional food later this year, it is anticipated that its consumption in the country will significantly increase.
◎ Perilla Oil
Benefits of perilla oil―such as the prevention of dementia and the weakening of allergies—are known to Japanese consumers through local mass media. The product is sold at large stores and supermarkets. With high food safety and superior quality compared to its rivals, Korean perilla oil is a rising star in the Japanese market.
◎ Portable Red Ginseng Extract
Offered in easy-to-carry, small packages, red ginseng extract can be consumed anytime and anywhere. The product was recently featured in Korean TV series Dokkaebi and Descendants of the Sun, and its consumption in Japan is rapidly increasing. It is especially popular among office workers in their 20s and 30s and tourists who have visited Korea.
# The Largest Ever Korean Pavilion at FOODEX JAPAN 2017
MAFRA and aT’s Strategy of Promoting Products in Line with Japanese Food Trends…Over 110 Participating Companies from Korea
Celebrating its 42nd anniversary this year, FOODEX JAPAN is the biggest food exhibition in Asia and one of the top three food expos in the world. MAFRA (the Korean Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs) and aT (Korea Agri-Fisheries & Food Trade Corp.) set up the largest ever Korean Pavilion at the expo. In cooperation with about 110 Korean food companies, the two agencies promoted the high quality and excellent taste of Korean agriproducts to Japanese buyers and local consumers.
Nowadays, due to the rapid aging of Japanese society, the demand for healthy functional foods is steadily increasing. In addition, a larger number of the Japanese are becoming interested in convenience food and beauty food. MAFRA and aT focused their attention on those trends when introducing promising Korean products. Most of the products exhibited at FOODEX JAPAN 2017 were healthy functional foods (such as lactobacillus-fermented brown rice and anti-cancer cabbage), convenience foods, and innovative products (such as freeze-dried food for babies and yogurt snacks).
Several tasting events were held for dishes made with Korean kimchi, seafood, and forest products and received a positive response. A promotional booth for Korean food franchises specializing in ice cream, juice extraction, etc., was operated to assist the companies’ advance to the Japanese food service market.
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