Japanese Specialty Food for the American Market

Japanese Specialty Food for the American Market

While recently in Japan, I had an in-depth look at Japanese specialty food products on grocery store shelves there. I was also conducting shopper research; more on that here. When I think of Japanese food, I personally think of sushi, rice, sake, beer, ramen, beef (Wagyu & Kobe,) and tea. That alone covers a lot of territory, but there’s still so much more that Japan has to offer the world, and more specifically, the American consumer market.

Currently in the US, matcha tea is really having a moment. In Japan, matcha is in everything from smoothies and pancakes to KitKat bars. Other unique flavors in Japanese food products include wasabi, peach, and sakura (cherry blossom.)

Matcha flavored KitKat bars

Matcha flavored KitKat bars

Sakura (cherry blossom) flavored treats (kind of like rice crispy treats,) loose leaf green tea, & sweet blossom flakes.

Sakura (cherry blossom) flavored treats (kind of like rice crispy treats,) loose leaf green tea, & sweet blossom flakes.

Speaking of green, green tea in general is also one of those categories that Japan is famous for already. Tea is certainly already a competitive, crowded category in America, but what I enjoyed most about Japanese tea is the ceremony (or experience) that goes along with it. Falling in line with slow food and mindful eating, making a bit of a ceremony — slowing down to take time to pour a cuppa, is something I think experience-seeking, foodie Americans who love entertaining would enjoy. I myself even bought a traditional, ceramic tea set while in Japan. It’s beautiful (with cherry blossoms on it — see below,) and my children love taking part in pouring into the little tea cups and slowly adding honey. I only just started this earlier this month, but I think it’s a new family tradition we’ll keep for a long time to come.

Japanese cherry blossom tea set

Another Japanese product that seems to be on some American’s radar just recently is mochi. If you’ve not heard of it, mochi 餅, もち) is Japanese rice cake made of mochigome, a short-grain japonica glutinous rice. It’s similar to ice cream, kind of. If you shop at Whole Foods Market, you’ve definitely seen it. It launched in all stores a couple of years ago and they made a very big deal of it. That’s how I first learned about mochi and tried it for the first time in my local store. I was super curious to see if mochi was really a big deal in Japan or not, and turns out, it is. I wonder who discovered it for Whole Foods Market (anyone know?) Whoever it was, good idea; it’s unique and delicious.

Here are just some of the products I spotted that seem like a good fit for the American market.

Love this packaging

Love this packaging

Love this packaging too; brought some of these home for my kids and as gifts.

Love this packaging too; brought some of these home for my kids and as gifts.

Brought some of these home with me as well; liquid Japanese honey and it’s delicious!

Brought some of these home with me as well; liquid Japanese honey and it’s delicious!

This might even already be in the USA, and certainly we do have lots of samba noodles. I really like the branding on this one. For the USA, certainly we would need some English, but I love the exoticism of having another language on packaging as well (makes it more interesting!)

This might even already be in the USA, and certainly we do have lots of samba noodles. I really like the branding on this one. For the USA, certainly we would need some English, but I love the exoticism of having another language on packaging as well (makes it more interesting!)

Wagyu beef on a stick. I would like to see more meat on a stick in America. A few butcheries I visited would cook these up for you on the spot. This photo ironically is from one of the vendors at The Tsukiji Market (築地市場, Tsukiji shijō) in Tokyo. I went to a fish market and ate beef; ha!

Wagyu beef on a stick. I would like to see more meat on a stick in America. A few butcheries I visited would cook these up for you on the spot. This photo ironically is from one of the vendors at The Tsukiji Market (築地市場, Tsukiji shijō) in Tokyo. I went to a fish market and ate beef; ha!

Look what gorgeous spices and sauces. Americans would need a bit of education on these.

Look what gorgeous spices and sauces. Americans would need a bit of education on these.

Pietro dressing is already in the USA. I know as I have it in my cabinets at home.

Pietro dressing is already in the USA. I know as I have it in my cabinets at home.

More beautiful looking canned fish and sauces

More beautiful looking canned fish and sauces

Japan has some interesting “street food.” The experience around some of these is so fun and has people lined up to give it a try and take photos of the process.

More street food. I had one of these strawberry-sauce covered bananas on a stick. Probably not the healthiest ever, but it sure is pretty!

More street food. I had one of these strawberry-sauce covered bananas on a stick. Probably not the healthiest ever, but it sure is pretty!

Fruit flavored drinks with a small amount of alcohol.

Fruit flavored drinks with a small amount of alcohol.

Japanese sake from Mount Fuji area.

Japanese sake from Mount Fuji area.

The fanciest bread I’ve ever had. Grand Marble Kyoto breads are perfect for gift-giving.

The fanciest bread I’ve ever had. Grand Marble Kyoto breads are perfect for gift-giving.

Love the font and graphics.

Love the font and graphics.

Such diverse snacks and sweets.

Such diverse snacks and sweets.

Japanese specialty food
I personally LOVE cherry blossoms since we have them in Washington, DC too (thanks to Japan.) Again the presentation and ceremony that can come along with Japanese cuisine is so pretty; I know lots of Americans would enjoy using these types of accessories, like chopsticks rest and little containers for sauces.

I personally LOVE cherry blossoms since we have them in Washington, DC too (thanks to Japan.) Again the presentation and ceremony that can come along with Japanese cuisine is so pretty; I know lots of Americans would enjoy using these types of accessories, like chopsticks rest and little containers for sauces.

Are you from a Japanese company that wants to launch into the USA?

Green Purse PR will be back in Tokyo later this year (2019) and we’ll be bringing fresh insights from the American consumer market with us. I’m currently planning one of our Go To Market USA Workshops. These workshops are for exporters and focus on understanding the American consumer market to ensure export success. Each program is customized, but typically includes a half day or full day workshop covering topics such as: the American retail landscape, shopper insights, best practices in consumer marketing, competitive intelligence, resources and a brainstorming and Q&A session.

Contact us for more details on our Go To Market USA Workshop happening later in 2019 in Minato, Tokyo.

- Lisa Mabe-Konstantopoulos, Founder, Green Purse PR