Posts Tagged ‘ryoma sakamoto’

Trends in Japan 2010: food and drink

Friday, December 31st, 2010

This year’s hottest product, quite literally, was taberu rayu, a spicy sauce that made it into the top keywords of the year and even beat smart phones to the top spot of Nikkei Trendy’s hit product list for 2010. Back in July we reported on how the chili-infused condiment, which contains minced onion and garlic, had gone from a foodie novelty to one of the Japan’s hottest new sauces in just under a year. Figuring out that it tasted delicious on burgers, big-name brands like Mos Burger picked up the trend and ran with it. The chain’s crunchy rayu burger, designed by Terry Ito, was a huge hit this summer.

Sales of All-Free were suspended in August due to high demand

Japan’s unusually hot summer was cited as part of the reason behind the taberu rayu craze (spicy food is said to be cooling in hot weather), and other brands profited from the sweltering temperatures as well. Stocks of Japan’s favorite retro ice lolly Garigari-kun were dangerously low at one point during the summer, causing makers to officially apologize to disappointed customers. Suntory also found it hard to keep up with demand for their new All-Free non alcoholic low calorie beer, and in August, according to Daily Yomiuri, were forced to temporarily suspend sales until September.

One of the more unusual food trends to break over the summer was the new Tokyo-based fad for chowing down on a big bowl of ramen noodle broth for breakfast. The idea is for busy workers to stock up on calories ahead of a grueling day, enabling them to either skip lunch or grab a small snack on the fly during the day. While the number of restaurants serving ramen has increased in recent years, the trend hasn’t quite reached epidemic proportions yet. The idea of morning mochi provided an attractive alternative to those seeking a seeking a hearty breakfast at home: Marushin’s Good Morning Breakfast Mochi, launched in April this year, proved much more popular than the company initially expected with sales figures 180 percent higher than the company’s typical mochi sales.

On the marketing end of things, dozens of companies tried to cash in the Ryoma Sakamoto boom, spurred by the popularity of the yearlong NHK taiga drama “Ryomanden.” Be it associated with burgers, soft drinks, ramen chips, curry, or beer — the face of the legendary samurai was everywhere.

Dining out continued to get cheaper during 2010 as izakaya scrambled to outdo each other with cut-price deals. The biggest gimmick of 2010 was offering free drinks of shochu to get customers through the doors. Another gimmick, which isn’t so new but was in full effect during 2010, was the use of cute young girls to entice male custom. We’re not only talking about Hooters’ arrival in Japan, which opened its doors for the first time this year in Japan but other establishments such as Katsuyama Dojo Style Pub and Nadeshico Sushi, which also entered the restaurant market: Both establishments hired bevies of cute girls to serve food to, mostly likely, an exclusively male clientele.

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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