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Western tastes taking hold in Japan? Western imports certainly are!

The fastest-growing single frozen food product in Japan last year was pizza, up 26% to 16,313 tons and 23.6% to 16.1 billion yen. Granted, pizza isn't a very big category in absolute terms, but perhaps it's a sign of the times.

That's especially true if you look at categories like rice dishes (down 10.6% last year, to 106,465 tons), or squid and octopus (off 24.4% to 22,070 tons). Of course, hamburgers were also down, but Western QFF products can't win all the time!

Although statistics from the Japan Frozen Food Association (JFFA) show domestic production of frozen food to be increasing every year, the US Foreign Agriculture Service (FAS) reports that domestic food production is declining steadily, and predicts that imports will increase to match it by the year 2003.

JFFA and FAS figures aren't necessarily in conflict. A lot of the "production" in Japan surely relies on imported raw materials, especially in the fisheries sector. Even in the prepared foods sector, which dominates the Japanese frozen food industry, a lot of the raw materials (including but not limited to fish and shellfish) must be coming from abroad.

With the elimination of import barriers in the last few years, imports of frozen meat and juice concentrates have soared. So far, these don't seem to be reflected in frozen food statistics, perhaps because they are used primarily for remanufacture of non-frozen products (refrigerated meats and chilled juices). The JFFA acknowledges that about 100,000 tons of ready meals were imported last year and marketed as frozen, but it doesn't have a precise handle on the volume.

Because of a continuing recession, Japanese frozen food prices were off slightly last year, and with US production of frozen vegetables abundant, imports in that category were a real bargain. Among domestically-produced products, prices were down sharply in fried shrimp and lobster, finfish generally, corn on the cob, potato products other than fries, spinach and meats. Prices were up, however, in raw shellfish, meatballs, fried dumplings, rice products and stews/soups/sauces.

As previously reported in the July QFFI, Japanese frozen food consumption overall reached about 1.92 million tons, counting both imported vegetables and the estimated imports of ready meals. That works out to about 15 kilograms per capita -- less than the average for Europe, but still impressive for a country where the retail market has traditionally lagged because of the lack of both display space in stores and freezer space in Japanese households.

A 7.4% annual increase is all the more remarkable in a recession; if that rate keeps up over the next five years, frozen food consumption should reach 2.6 million tons by the turn of the century. If recent experience is any guide, prepared foods (up 6.4% last year, 8.9% for fried) and imported vegetables (up 16% last year) will dominate the market even more than they do today -- although more of the imports may come from China (up 47% last year) than from the US.

Despite the increase in frozen food production and sales, refrigerated storage space in Japan grew by only 1.7% last year. This year's increase in storage capacity looks to be no larger, and suggests that the Japanese cold storage industry is making remarkable strides in efficiency -- with faster turn-arounds ensuring that the same amount of space can be used to move greater amounts of product.

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Title Annotation:1995 Global Frozen Foods Almanac
Publication:Quick Frozen Foods International
Date:Oct 1, 1995
Previous Article:QFF production up 8.2% in USA, but domestic retail sales flat.
Next Article:Thai seafood exports up 13.6%; frozen shrimp leading the way.

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