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Japanese Frozen Food Volume Up, But Mostly on Account Imports.

Four percent gain in consumption fueled primarily by imported vegetables; domestic output gains less than a percent. Fried foods and fish and seafood both suffer setbacks.

People are still buying more frozen food in Japan, but domestic production has stalled and imported vegetables accounted for nearly all the growth reported for last year by the Japan Frozen Food Association (JFFA) -- four percent in tons to 2,194,478 and 2.4% in value to [yen] 861.5 billion.

Imports other than vegetables, the JFFA estimates (no precise figures are available), added a bit more than 100,000 tons -- bringing total consumption to about 2.3 million. But the US Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) puts pre-cut frozen chicken imports alone at more than 400,000 tons. Frozen food production in Japan itself was up only 0.5% in tons to 1,488,910, and only 0.2% in value to [yen] 747.5 million.

Japan has long prided itself on being a fish-eating nation, but both domestic catch and imports have declined in recent years, and this is reflected in the frozen food market. Frozen fish and seafood volume was off 2.7% to 100,651 tons and 2.4% to [yen] 87.9 billion. Shrimp consumption was off 13.5% in tonnage, perhaps due to higher prices (Yen value was off only 7.5%). That outweighed a 7.6% increase in squid and octopus, which were attractive because they declined in price.

Although there are complaints that Japanese consumers are taking to unhealthy Western eating habits when they abandon fish, they are also eating less fried food -- at least in frozen form. Fried prepared foods volume was off three percent last year to 432,068 tons, and prices had little to do with it. Croquette items declined slightly, with only a minor price increase, while cutlets fell 17.7% in volume even though they were cheaper than the year before. Fried squid and oyster posted double digit gains, but they are relatively minor.

Among non-fried prepared foods, the two largest -- rice and noodle products -- each gained more than four percent in tons as prices eased. Meatballs and sho-mai did well in spite of small price increases, as did kneaded fish and egg products. Both an import standard (pizza) and a traditional standard (spring rolls)were off in tonnage, and frozen hamburger volume slipped 15.4% to 55,977 tons even though prices were slightly lower.

Institutional versus Retail

Institutional share of the market for domestically-produced QFF was off slightly from 73.2% to 72.2%, versus 27.8% for retail. But imported vegetables may have tipped the scale further towards the catering sector. During the recession, cheap restaurant chains (izakaya) such as Tengu and Tsubahachi have increased in popularity, according to Sarah D. Hanson in an attache report for the FAS, and these use a lot of pre-cut frozen vegetables as well as other processed foods in order to cut their operating costs to the bone.

Still, retail consumption is on the increase for the same reasons as in Europe and the United States: more women in the work force, a greater number of elderly and single-person households. Even housewives are busier than they used to be, Hanson observed, and whereas they used to be considered lazy if they used frozen food instead of preparing meals from scratch, it is now increasingly acceptable to serve frozen items at home. A growing trend is toward frozen food as the main dish, instead of just for side dishes as in the past.

Frozen vegetable imports soared 12.5% in tonnage last year to 705,568, and 19.4% in value to [yen] 114 billion. Although the United States remained the leading source at 311,742 tons, China was catching up at 264,551 -- a 21.4% increase versus 11.1% for the USA. Hanson reported that imported frozen beef is increasingly used at fast food chains like Yoshinoya, and at grilled meat (yakiniku) restaurants. Frozen poultry has similarly become a mainstay at grilled chicken outlets (yakitori).
JAPAN: Frozen Food Production and Consumption 1997-98

 Items Fishery Farm Livestock

 Year Products Products Products

 1997 103,485 88,892 22,370
 1998 100,651 89,894 23,562
Volume 1998/1997 97.3 101.1 105.3
(tons) Inst. 88,966 77,625 22,174
 Ret. 11,685 12,269 1,388
 1997 90,054 21,866 15,064
 1998 87,860 23,084 16,075
Value 1998/1997 97.6 105.6 106.7
([yen] M) Inst. 75,692 19,196 14,868
 Ret. 12,168 3,888 1,207

 Prepared Foods

 Fried Food Other Sub-Total

 445,223 771,333 1,216,556
 432,068 788,808 1,220,876
Volume 97.0 102.3 100.4
(tons) 329,492 512,967 842,459
 102,576 275,841 378,417
 235,138 356,272 591,410
 226,500 365,523 592,023
Value 96.3 102.6 100.1
([yen] M) 163,919 235,664 399,583
 62,581 129,859 192,440

 Confectionery Imported Consumption
 Frozen
 Vegetables

 50,734 627,242 2,109,279
 53,927 705,568 2,194,478
Volume 106.3 112.5 104.0
(tons) 44,182 N/A N/A
 9,745 N/A N/A
 27,496 95,460 841,350
 28,472 113,984 861,498
Value 103.5 119.4 102.4
([yen] M) 22,599 N/A N/A
 5,873 N/A N/A


Sources: Japan Frozen Food Association.

Inst. = Institutional

Ret. = Retail
Japan: Volume & Value of Frozen Food
in 1997 & 1998

 Volume

 Food Category 1997 1998 1998/1997
 Tons Tons %

Fishery Fish 34,247 32,817 96
Products Lobster/Shrimp 20,648 17,859 87
 Crabs 4,093 3,206 78
 Squid & Octopus 21,063 22,667 108
 Shellfish 15,023 17,433 116
 Other Fishery
 Products 8,411 6,669 79
 Sub Total 103,485 100,651 97.3

Farm Taro (Satoimo) 1,637 1,758 107
Products Carrot 6,566 5,658 86
 Stemmed Corn 4,843 4,794 99
 Kernel Corn 4,574 5,019 110
 Pumpkin 10,627 11,717 110
 French Fried
 Potatoes 12,510 10,185 81
 Other Potato
 Products 19,551 21,805 112
 Spinach 6,652 5,348 80
 Other Vegetables 19,437 20,624 106
 Fruits 2,495 2,986 120
 Sub Total 88,892 89,894 101.1

Livestock Poultry 6,123 6,928 114
Products Meats 16,247 16,580 102
 Sub Total 22,370 23,662 105.3

Fried Fried Shrimp/
Products Lobster 11,019 10,902 99
 Fried Squid 6,930 7,919 114
 Fried Oyster 9,242 10,809 117
 Fried Fish 32,822 27,077 83
 Other Fried
 Fishery Items 40,453 38,578 95
 Croquette 168,544 166,917 99
 Cutlet 86,481 71,193 82
 Other Fried Food,
 Tempura 89,732 98,673 110
 Sub Total 445,223 432,068 97.0
Prepared Hamburger 66,165 55,977 85
Foods Meatball 34,535 35,559 103
other Shao-mai 31,517 32,057 102
than Fried Dumpling
Fried stuffed with
Foods minced pork
 (Gyoza) 20,473 22,160 108
 Harumaki (Spring
 Roll) 23,037 22,950 100
 Pizza 17,835 16,500 93
 Chinese Bun 9,215 10,512 114
 Rice Products 128,938 134,421 104
 Noodles 165,137 171,986 104
 Bread & Dough 38,605 36,227 94
 Kneaded Fish
 Products 7,803 8,311 107
 Egg Products 35,210 40,092 114
 Gratin 24,217 25,838 107
 Stew, Soup,
 Sauce, etc. 17,386 17,061 98
 Other Prepared
 Foods 151,260 159,157 105
 Sub Total 771,333 788,808 102.3
 Prepared Foods
 Total 216,556 1,220,876 100
 Confectionery 50,734 53,927 106
 Grand Total 1,482,037 1,488,910 100.5

 Value

 Food Category 1997 1998 1998/1997
 [yen] M [yen] M %

Fishery Fish 27,440 28,719 105
Products Lobster/Shrimp 16,910 15,647 93
 Crabs 5,719 4,508 79
 Squid & Octopus 17,831 17,660 99
 Shellfish 13,668 14,728 108
 Other Fishery
 Products 8,486 6,598 78
 Sub Total 90,054 87,860 97.6

Farm Taro (Satoimo) 591 614 104
Products Carrot 1,189 864 73
 Stemmed Corn 1,122 1,069 95
 Kernel Corn 1,038 1,200 116
 Pumpkin 2,596 3,108 120
 French Fried
 Potatoes 2,283 1,813 79
 Other Potato
 Products 2,930 3,412 117
 Spinach 1,845 1,576 85
 Other Vegetables 7,381 8,236 112
 Fruits 891 1,192 134
 Sub Total 21,866 23,084 105.6

Livestock Poultry 3,932 4,620 118
Products Meats 11,132 11,455 103
 Sub Total 15,064 16,075 106.7

Fried Fried Shrimp/
Products Lobster 18,221 19,800 109
 Fried Squid 5,062 6,117 121
 Fried Oyster 6,930 8,112 117
 Fried Fish 17,842 13,521 76
 Other Fried
 Fishery Items 30,208 26,883 89
 Croquette 55,142 54,959 100
 Cutlet 51,469 38,874 76
 Other Fried Food,
 Tempura 50,264 58,234 116
 Sub Total 235,138 226,500 96.3

Prepared Hamburger 33,986 28,241 83
Foods Meatball 17,835 18,497 104
other Shao-mai 13,406 14,750 110
than Fried Dumpling
Fried stuffed with
Foods minced pork
 (Gyoza) 9,205 10,516 114
 Harumaki (Spring
 Roll) 11,912 11,972 101
 Pizza 13,744 13,212 96
 Chinese Bun 3,697 4,115 111
 Rice Products 52,703 54,434 103
 Noodles 40,089 41,004 102
 Bread & Dough 16,284 15,562 96
 Kneaded Fish
 Products 4,450 4,590 103
 Egg Products 16,470 18,803 114
 Gratin 13,126 14,267 109
 Stew, Soup,
 Sauce, etc. 9,991 9,752 98
 Other Prepared
 Foods 99,374 105,808 107
 Sub Total 356,272 365,523 102.6
 Prepared Foods
 Total 591,410 592,023 100
 Confectionery 27,496 28,472 104
 Grand Total 745,890 747,514 100.2
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Comment:Japanese Frozen Food Volume Up, But Mostly on Account Imports.
Publication:Quick Frozen Foods International
Geographic Code:9JAPA
Date:Oct 1, 1999
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