Archive for March, 2010

Foodex Japan 2010: shaking up sake

Friday, March 5th, 2010

Awamori coffee liqueur (left), and a bar set up by Hakutsuru offering sake cocktails

Awamori coffee liqueur (left), and a bar set up by Hakutsuru offering sake cocktails

Our final post on Foodex Japan 2010 highlights ways that the traditional drinks industry in Japan is aiming to catch the attention of a younger audience.

Okinawan Awamori managed to break out of its stuffy image with a popular caramel coffee liqueur imaginatively called Awamori Coffee. The product was launched a year ago and judging by the scrum around their booth, sales will continue to climb.

The demographic for sake (nihonshu) drinkers tends to be older, so manufacturers are trying to break with tradition. Sake brand Hakutsuru set up a bar serving cocktails made with sake. Their representative explained that sake-based cocktails have been proving popular abroad, so they were trying to encourage the trend in Japan. The booth proved popular, so we might see bars begin to take up the idea in the future.

Sweetening the veggie deal

Friday, March 5th, 2010

Veggie cream puffs for Beard Papa

Veggie cream puffs at Hirota

Munching on raw vegetables in Japan might be viewed with a bit of suspicion.  A plate of salad or bag of carrot sticks in the lunch room often invites a chorus of “Usagi-chan!” (little rabbit!).

Recently, though, the marketplace has been coming up with ways to sneak veggies into your diet that are a bit less crunchy.

A wave of juice blends have punched up their vegetable content to increase their nutrition. Kagome moved puréed concentrated greens off the supplement shelves and into grocery aisles with its Minna no Aojiru juice blends. The famously bitter green stuff is mellowed out with grape, apple and mango.

Ito En is carrying a line of boxed juices, two of which promise a daily allowance’s worth of  vegetables (25 vegetables! 100% veggie juice!) in one go. Kagome’s heavily promoted Yasai Shibori comes in an elegant black box with low-lit photos and focuses on the flavors of just a few select vegetables in the “golden balance blend” of carrot, red pepper and tomato. A latte from the same line blends milk and purple sweet potato.

Asahi, in collaboration with Kagome, is trying to cover two bases with Spo-vege, a bright orange, reduced-calorie sports drink with a slight carrot flavor.

It’s not just juice – veggies are also turning up in baked goods and confectionaries.  Earlier this week, Japan Pulse spotted spinach and soy doughnuts from Soycom being showcased at Foodex Japan. Meanwhile, Hirota and Beard Papa cream puffs have teamed up to sweeten the deal even further. Their new Vegetable Choux Ice is a six-pack of ice-cream cream puffs in farm flavors including corn, spinach, soy and habanero.

Continue reading about sweet vegetables →

Foodex Japan 2010: new snacks

Thursday, March 4th, 2010

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A pair of Miss Peach promotion girls take a stroll at Foodex Japan 2010

Our second look at Foodex Japan 2010 is a round-up of exciting new products we found on display there, some of which were being previewed prior to release.

These biscuits were made to celebrate the 100th anniversary of taikyaki

The medetai biscuits, celebrating the 100th anniversary of taikyaki

About to hit the market this month are Ginbis’ Medetai biscuits. The fish shaped biscuits were created to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Taiyaki, the name being a play on the words medotou (congratulations) and taiyaki (the name of the fish shaped snack). Coming in white and plain chocolate flavors, the biscuits were delicious, though I was a little disappointed to discover that there wasn’t any of the yummy filling that is common in original taiyaki.

Also previewed were Moomin brand biscuits from Hokka, which are due out at the end of the month. Given the popularity of Moomin characters, these biscuits are bound to get gobbled up.

Ronga Food's crepe stick

Ronga Food's Crepe Stick: "Cool & Sweet"

In terms of innovation, Ronga Food’s Crepe Stick which was released March 1, was head and shoulders above the competition. Sweet crepes are hugely popular in Japan, with shops selling the freshly made version enjoying massive queues; Ronga have cleverly adapted the snack into a convenience store food format similar to the popular umaibo.

Another smart innovation came from Yaokin who released their crushed pretzel snack a couple of weeks ago. Pretzels are a relatively new snack to Japan and this is the first time I’ve seen the pretzel in this broken format.

Foodex Japan 2010: trends

Wednesday, March 3rd, 2010

The reception crew of Foodex Japan 2010

The reception crew of Foodex Japan 2010

Journalism can sometimes be a tough gig, and my mettle was totally tested today when I bravely scarfed my way through a mountain of free samples at Foodex Japan 2010 in pursuit of the latest trends in Japan’s food and drinks industry. One of  Asia’s largest food and drinks fair, Foodex is the go-to event for  Japanese and foreign companies to network and show off their products . . . and for journalists to sample their wares.

Snow Ice has an unusual consistency

Snow Ice has an unusual consistency

The biggest queues at the show seemed to be for the Charmy Snow Ice booth, a Taiwanese company, Charmy make a peculiar kind of ice cream that looks a bit like cotton candy and tastes incredibly sweet. Charmy launched in Japan in 2008 but other companies, such as Kinokuni Gelato and Kita no Watayuki, are also getting in on the action with similar products. We’re expecting to see more and more franchises of Charmy et. al opening up across Japan in the coming year. Judging by the shocking pink signs, the target consumers of snow ice are teenage girls with a sweet tooth.

For those of us who are a little more wary of piling on the pounds, Soycom Ltd. have launched a range of doughnuts made with soybean flour in healthy pumpkin, spinach and ginseng flavours. Instead of being deep fried, these donuts are baked for extra healthiness, however, after sampling these low-fat numbers, I wasn’t quite ready to kick my Mr. Donut habit.

Soybean donuts are healthy but they didn't set my taste buds on fire

Soybean doughnuts are definitely healthy, but they didn’t set my taste buds on fire

Soybeans are definitely the versatile ingredient du jour; there was even a healthy coffee on display made from smoked green soybeans made by Ryokokushoji Co. that’s due to be released on the market in April.

Also popular, though obviously not as an ingredient, was the legendary samarai leader Sakamoto Ryoma, whose famous image could be seen  gracing packets of curry. Ryoma Legend Curry was launched in December last year obviously to cash in on the NHK series “Ryomaden.” Elsewhere, Sakamoto was being used to promote Sasebo Burgers and an actor dressed up as the atypical samurai was tasked with handing out leaflets advertising the chain. Wonder who gets all the merchandising money?

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