In 2010, the international organic trade fair BioFach Japan successfully celebrated its ten-year anniversary: more than 260 exhibitors welcomed over 17,000 trade visitors to the halls of the “Tokyo Big Sight” trade fair grounds. From 1 to 3 November 2011, the largest Japanese trade fair for organic foods, natural cosmetics and textiles will welcome visitors to metropolitan Tokyo for the eleventh time.
Because of the catastrophes in the spring of this year, Japan is even more dependent on food imports than before. At the same time the demand for organic products is rising appreciably. The recent “Japanese Organic Market 2010 – 2011” study forecasts huge potential for the green market: among other things, the report illuminates the value-added chain of the Japanese organic foods market, structures of production and trade as well as consumer behaviour.
Michiaki Tokue, Vice President of the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM) Japan and representative of the Organic Market Research Project (OMR), sees very high potential for growth in the Japanese organic market. Regulations for production and consumption are firmly established in law and in practice, says Tokue in the “Japanese Organic Market 2010–2011” study. The journalist and publisher Taka Yamaguchi expects an organic boom and in his paper “The Birth of an Organic Lifestyle” he explains that an appreciation of organic products is unconsciously spreading. Along with organic foods, interest in natural cosmetics and natural textiles is also increasing.
“Yuki” is not a foreign word in Japan
The survey results attest to the solid foundations for positive growth in the green market. The Japanese term “yuki”, meaning organic, is familiar to 97 percent of all Japanese. Only 5 percent, however, know the exact meaning of the JAS certification seal. About two-thirds of the respondents have enjoyed organic products at least once. During a defined period of time, every fifth person regularly – once or several times per week – chose an organic food product. Among the committed buyers (about 5 percent) who eat organic products almost exclusively, 19 percent spent more money on these products than last year. According to consumers, the desire for uncontaminated, healthy and sustainably produced food is generally high. On the other hand, food grown with reduced pesticide use, so-called integrated farming, is also very popular. However, consumers frequently do not know the difference between this and organic foods. This makes it all the more important to increase efforts to get people talking about the advantages of food produced through organic farming – such as the added benefits for the environment and health. This is one of the goals of the marketing programme for the organic product sector which has been initiated by the agriculture ministry. Current sales of organic food products in Japan amount to an estimated 1.3 billion US dollars. This is equivalent to about 1 percent of the total Japanese food market. Sales of food from integrated farming have currently reached about 5.2 billion US dollars.
New ideas for marketing organic products
Green products have been launched in almost all marketing formats – another positive sign for sales. Along with smaller specialty natural food stores, food co-ops and organic supermarkets, conventional supermarket chains, department stores and restaurants are also increasingly offering organic products. Direct marketing and Internet trade are also playing a role. According to the study, most Japanese prefer to buy their organic products at a traditional supermarket. Market penetration is on the rise: green purchases are now possible not only in city centres but also increasingly in the residential areas of the suburbs. This trend is providing new inspiration for marketing and will further stimulate the demand for organic products.
The Japanese organic market since 2001
A broad range of developments in the organic sector have seen organic food legislation and the JAS certification seal introduced in 2001, the Japanese government issuing a directive designed to promote organic farming in 2006, and the Organic Market Research Project (OMR) being launched in 2009. Recently the results of this study were also made available in English. The Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, MAFF –represented at BioFach Japan once again with a joint stand– initiated a three-year organic products marketing project to further boost the market. In the spring of 2010 Japan was added to the EU’s Third Country Establishments List as a trading partner for organic products. The goal of all these measures is to create a good foundation for expanding the green market.
After the dramatic events of this spring and the current rebuilding effort, many people in Japan are showing a real interest in ecological concepts. From 1 to 3 November 2011 BioFach in Tokyo will once again offer the players in the international organic products market an ideal platform to expand their supply and demand networks.
Text: Biofach Japan