A recent Japan External Trade Organisation (JETRO) consumer survey found that Japanese foods were the most popular globally and a close 3rd in the U.S. to Italian and Chinese food. This is great news for Japan Gold USA, a division of MUSO Co., pioneer in the Japanese organic industry and veteran importer, exporter and distributor of traditional Japanese fermented foods.
President of Japan Gold USA Seigo Okada says the export market for Japanese organic products is stable as the international organic industry is still growing in volume and value. “There is much diversity in the organic industry over the last five years with big companies entering the natural food sector, and a lot of organic stores and major U.S. supermarkets stocking more organic brands and under private label,” he says.
Japan Gold USA focuses primarily on the North American trade serving the retail channels such as drug stores, supermarkets and independent stores. “We sell to Whole Foods Market who have high standards and to large chains looking for organics under private label such as Kroger.”
Japan Gold USA supplies Shoyu and Tamari soy sauces, Miso, sake, sea vegetables, brown rice vinegar, brown rice crackers, Greenpea chips, Mungbean chips, tea and beverages. Best selling products for Japan Gold in the Japan market are the soy sauce and miso products and the Japanese pasta noodles. Mr. Okada says in the U.S.,more ethnic and convenience foods are popular such as miso instant soup, noodle bowls and anything that is a microwaveable meal, as people’s lifestyles do not seem to afford 30 minutes to prepare foods.
Japan Gold USA launched at Natural Products Expo West this year Seaweed Salad On The Go that is suitable for people of all ages and a number of Spiral Foods organic products. Spiral produces some of Australia’s bestknown organic food products and Japan Gold launched
Spiral Foods’ organic brands in the U.S. in 2009. “Convenience meals are very popular in the U.S., and sushi kits in a box (except fish) are selling well in supermarkets. Americans have discovered and appreciate Asian and Japanese cuisines,” says Mr. Okada. “We discovered over the last three years that people like Japanese foods for their healthy attributes and diet. While it has been something enjoyed away from home, we’ve now developed sushi kits and noodle kits for cooking at home.”
The tsunami and nuclear accident of 2011 had no effect on sales of organic products for Japan Gold as distributors kept ordering products and sales kept growing in Japan, while people bought more products due to a lot of trust in organics, Mr. Okada says. Following Expo West and the NY Summer Fancy Foods shows Mr. Okada says there has been also very strong interest in Spiral’s Organic Coconut Oil. “Japan Gold’s is finding new markets in North America for all our products and many buyers are saying ethnic categories are growing very well and they are looking for more new products,” says CEO of Spiral Foods James Wilson.
Spiral Organic’s sales have been steady across their range of organic products that include Bonsoy, the Australian market leader in premium organic soymilk, organic groceries, snack foods and coconut derivates, helped by a strong pipeline of new product launches and new packaging for existing ranges.
In late 2012, Spiral Foods acquired Australian-based gluten-free pasta brand Casalare, which is based in Victoria. “New production equipment is being installed. We will increase the range in pastas, including in Spiral organics and will continue to supply organic brown rice pastas, which are doing very well,” Mr Wilson says. “New products include gluten-free and organic bread and muffin mixes and it’s an exciting opportunity.”
With the popularity of coconut products in 2012-13 showing no signs of abating, Spiral is launching more coconut based products in North America, including Organic Coconut Oil and Spiral’s Poco Coco brand of organic, dried coconut chips and hopes that the U.S. will become one of its biggest markets. The Poco Coco organic coconut chips are presented in a 65gm cardboard canister with a BPA-free rubber lid, as are coconut chips in the Three Treasures range, while a sweet coconut snack is being developed. There are 11 other products in the natural snack food chips and crackers range, including products based on brown rice, mung beans, vegetables, and Quinoa Crackers with Black Sesame Seed (in 50g-65g hang sell packs). Two of these are certified organic (Mung Beans and Green Pea Chips), while all other products are GMO and gluten-free.
“Sales of the coconut product range over the last 12 months are growing strongly helped by being high quality and certified organic, while sales in the chips and crackers range are steady,” says Raphaelle Wilson, operations manager at Spiral Foods. “We’re seeing great media coverage of coconut’s health benefits, which is helping to drive demand, along with the taste of the products, being certified organic, and the versatility of coconut for cooking and use as a sweetener.”
James Wilson is excited about the launch of more Spiral organic foods in the U.S. and says things have their own evolutionary growth. “Exports are growing slowly, but we faced a high Australian dollar and some traditional markets that are flat, such as Japan. However, organic coconut products such as coconut oil are going through the roof,” he says.
The brand always had a strong core of consumers that support the products, while more products are being sold in the Japanese sea vegetable lines – Nori, Yaki Nori, Kanten Agar bars and flakes, Wakame and Arame. Mr. Wilson says the Japanese have taken thousands of years to work out the science of fermented foods and know intuitively that the food is good.