Meat alternatives Vegan trends reach Japan

by Steffen Bach
Thursday, January 30, 2020
Traditionally, vegetable proteins such as tofu, miso and natto also play a major role in the Japanese diet.
Photo: Imago Images / Westend61
Traditionally, vegetable proteins such as tofu, miso and natto also play a major role in the Japanese diet.

Eating habits are also changing in Japan. The traditionally most important sources of protein such as fish and seafood are losing importance. Dwindling supply and high prices have caused per capita consumption to shrink from just under twelve to eight kilograms per year over the past ten years.

At the same time, the Japanese consumed significantly more pork and poultry meat, while beef consumption remained constant. Consumption of the three types of meat grew from twelve to more than 15 kg per capita per year in the same period, which is significantly lower than in other industrialised countries.

Traditionally, vegetable proteins such as tofu, miso and natto also play a major role in the Japanese diet. The purely vegetarian or vegan diet, however, is still relatively unpopular in Japan, according to the Global Agricultural Information Network (GAIN) of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA). Nevertheless, the country's largest meat companies are investing in plant-based meat alternatives, the report continues.

Sojaernte
(Bild: charlesricardo / pixabay.com)

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Market launch planned for spring

In recent months, several of these companies have announced that they are developing alternative plant-based meat products for the retail market. Other companies, including tofu producers and pharmaceutical companies, are also planning to enter this sector. In 2019, Japan's two largest meat companies will attract attention when they announce that they plan to develop their own product lines to sell alternative meat products from spring 2020. Vegetarian hams, sausages and filled dumplings (gyoza) are planned.

However, the market for meat alternatives in Japan is expected to remain small compared to total meat consumption. According to industry sources, sales of alternative meat products in Japan could double to $312 mill. annually by 2023. However, in relation to meat sales, which the USDA estimates at $28.4 bn. in Japan, this would only represent a market share of just over one percent.

Japan is one of the most important meat importers worldwide. In 2019, according to preliminary USDA forecasts, the country will buy 890,000 t of beef, 1.5 mill. t of pork and 1.1 mill. t of poultry meat abroad. After Japan has concluded trade agreements with major meat suppliers such as the United States, Australia, Canada and the European Union, imported meat will probably become even more readily available to Japanese consumers, USDA experts expect.

US Rindfleisch
(Bild: US Beef)

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