Market View

Japanese food is disappearing!

2012/6/29 Friday
fromTTAccount Director ? Keiichi Komaki

What comes to mind when you think about Japanese food? The obvious choices are sushi and tempura but in the average Japanese home, most meals consist of rice as the main staple accompanied by miso soup and a number of side dishes. This is a diet with deep roots in Japan and Japanese who have been overseas for long periods of time often crave this rice and miso soup combination. However, you may not see this traditional meal much longer in Japanese homes of the future.

According to the findings of the Family Income and Expenditure Survey released by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications in May, the reason for this is that last year, the amount of bread overtook the amount of rice consumed per household for the first time in Japan’s history.

In 1990, the average Japanese household consumed 62,554 yen (US$782) of rice annually. This amount continued to drop every year until last year when it dropped tremendously to 27,780 yen (US$326) per household. Bread consumption, on the other hand, accounted for 26,122 yen (US$701) in 1990 and has grown slightly year over year until it overtook rice and reached 28,368 yen (US$356) per household last year. In other words, the amount of bread consumed did not really grow that much but the amount of rice consumed dropped drastically. Interestingly, there has been no similar reduction in the amount of noodles consumed. For some reason, rice is the only staple to have experienced a drop in consumption, and a significant one at that. There has not only been a reduction in the monetary value but also in the quantity of rice consumed. In 1990, the average household consumed 126kg of rice and over the past 20 years, the volume dropped by 34% to 82kg per household. If this trend continues at a similar pace, rice consumption will fall to 50kg per household in the next 20 years.

So why did the amount and quantity of rice consumption drop so much? According to the analysis of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, there are three main reasons for this. Firstly, Japanese diets have shifted and people now have a variety of food options other than rice, such as bread, noodles and meat. The second is the time it takes to cook rice. It requires a significant time investment to steam rice properly, which is not ideal for today’s busy people and dual-income households. Third, the notion that rice is fattening has become prevalent, especially among young women, and many people consider rice more fattening than bread (which apparently is not actually true).

So it comes without saying that the era when rice sold itself in Japan has already ended. To cope with changes in the Japanese diet, the time has come for the development and implementation of careful marketing strategies to sell rice in the same way as other food is marketed and sold. Currently, bread commercials are broadcast daily on Japanese television while there are no rice advertisements at all. The day when rice commercials are seen on TV every day just like bread commercials are today may not be too far away.