Japan is home to a wide variety of food and drink, and its population loves to experiment both with flavor and form. While sushi may be one of the first things that comes to mind when one thinks about Japanese food, the country offers so much more. Here are some of the creative things Japan is currently doing with its cuisine.
Ibérico tonkatsu: To some foodies, breading and deep-frying such an expensive and prized type of ham may sound like sacrilege. However, as pork grows in popularity in Japan, some restaurants are beginning to offer creative takes on this luxury product.
Mont blanc: This pastry is a perennial favorite in the country, with countless variations from the traditional French to Italian to Japan’s own take on the dessert. Traditionally made of chestnut, sponge cake, and whipped cream, this confection can be found almost everywhere and is one of the country’s most popular desserts. It is also influencing other foods, making its way into Kit-Kats, chocolate, ice cream, and more.
Sake jelly: A new way to drink sake has emerged in Japan. Sake jelly is a sweet drink that usually has a low alcohol content, making it well suited to dessert and as an introduction to sake for those who have not tried it before. Some types instruct the drinker to shake the can well before opening in order to break up the jelly, while others recommend using a spoon.
Ramen and sake: Another sake trend involves mixing the popular drink with one of the country’s favorite easy meals: instant ramen. While this might sound strange at first, it’s a flavor combination that works quite well. Mirin, which is similar to sake but sweeter and less alcoholic, is a common ingredient in Japanese food. The sake adds more flavor than it does alcohol, bringing more depth to a simple product.
One-cup sake: Rounding out this trio of sake trends is the practice of selling the drink in single-serving jars. These are designed to attract female drinkers, with their colorful and cute labels, as well as to keep the sake fresh.
Soda of all varieties: Soft drinks are enjoying immense popularity in Japan, with the industry currently being valued at USD 32 billion a year. Seasonal offerings such as Pepsi’s Ice Cucumber soda have been incredibly successful, while those that promise beauty benefits are enjoying very high demand.
Aside from these specific food trends, there are also some larger demographic forces at play in the market, leading to more sweeping changes:
Western foods: Japan’s young population is becoming more enamored with foreign foods. As a result, demand for ingredients such as rice and fish is declining slightly, and diets are beginning to include greater amounts of dairy, meat, salt, and fats.
Growing demand for functional foods and beverages: Health is an important concern for Japanese food consumers, and this will only grow as the government places greater importance on healthy lifestyles. This, combined with changes that make it easier to list a product as a Food for Specified Health Uses (FOSHU), means that functional products will thrive in coming years.
An aging population: Japan’s birth rate is declining and life expectancy in the country is rising, meaning that certain foods will be in greater demand than others. Packaged foods targeting seniors, health products that offer anti-aging benefits, and fruits and vegetables will see increased consumption.
Convenience: Between seniors for whom shopping and cooking is becoming more difficult, the increasing number of single-person households, and a higher number of families where both adults are working, ready-to-eat meals are growing in popularity. Consumers want meals that are easy and fast to prepare, meaning demand for premade foods is on the rise.
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