As can be seen the the picture, the tsukimi burger employs an egg in the same form seen on Egg McMuffins. Tsukimi means viewing the moon in Japanese, so I suppose the yolk is supposed to represent the moon, although the round shape of the egg might also be what is being referred to.
Sapporo Classic 2008 Furano Vintage Beer is a limited production (30,000 cases) beer. They claim a fresh taste due to hops which has not been processed in any way.
Furano is an area of Hokkaido, and I believe the Vintage refers to the harvest of the hops and barley in that area during 2008, under special licence of Sapporo.
Interestingly, despite the name Sapporo, the head office has long been in Tokyo. Last year a special product development office in Hokkaido and this is one of the first results. Interestingly, due to that move, the development received regional development assistance from the national government.
Momofuku Ando's story is well known, he developed the method of producing instant noodles and the resulting company he started enjoyed almost overnight success with the introduction of chicken ramen.
It was considered a luxury in post-war Japan, but is now a convenience and can be found world-wide. Happy birthday chicken ramen!
Almost everyone is familiar with the "omiyage" which are supposed to represent what is "famous" from a specific area, and which are usually food and packaged in a way to be made convenient for the obligatory present to co-workers upon return from a vacation. These "famous products" from various regions usually have historical basis, but a lot of hype is required to keep them going.
Another regional variation most people are familiar with are items like ramen or okonomiyaki which differ by region - Sapporo ramen, Osaka okonomiyaki, etc.
Most food companies on the other hand are faced with more subtle variations which can make or break a product. Many products are limited to Eastern or Western Japan simply do to their appeal in one of those areas.
Major, nation-wide food companies often introduce new products in just one regional market 1) because that area was found most promising in consumer research, 2) in order to evaluate a product in a test market with specific characteristics (Shizuoka is known for being somewhere between Osaka and Tokyo in its preferences and is thus the preferred test market), or 3) with no intention of going nation-wide (usually these are seasonal and are marketed to make the people of that region feel special - people in other regions cannot buy the product).
I am not sure which of the above applies to the new mushroom burger from Mos Burger, but it is only being introduced in Western Japan. It is said to have an Autumnal flavor. Announcements like this are hardly rare, but they are interesting to follow up on. Chances are those of us in Eastern Japan will not get a chance to buy this mushroom burger even though there are Mos Burgers on almost every other corner.
At the same time, all CVS chains are reporting around 11 percent increased sales over last year. Prices at CVS are not cheap, but they are cheaper than at restaurants. People appear to be making that calculation.
It does have fewer calories than milk, but I would rather pay 100 or 110 yen for 200 ml of milk.
Here are two examples from this week's news of new packaging.
Mitsukan, a major natto maker in Japan, introduced new packaging which allows for inclusion of the soy sauce in a same container and not in a separate plastic package. This saves time and helps avoid getting your hands or the table dirty (problems cited by customers).
Nescafe, is introducing new packaging for coffee refills which allow you to directly refill a jar of coffee without cutting open an aluminum refill bag (I didn't realize this was a problem). More interesting benefits include reduced loss of volatile aroma compounds during refilling (that sounds important as most of the flavor compounds are volatile) and this packaging reduces the amount of aluminum used by 30%, thus reducing the carbon footprint.
In one, Seven Eleven will be introducing a new selection of katsuo containing foods, which contain katsuo which have not been caught using net fishing off the coast of Ibaragi Prefecture - this is said to reduce scarring. Katsuo shavings are frequently used in Japanese cooking.
In the other, new flavoring including katsuo is announced for Seven Eleven oden. The oden in the picture really does look good, doesn't it?
Two factors are clear:
1) 3rd category beer is what is carrying the market while beer sales have suffered big setbacks. This is likely do to the large price differences which have been discussed in this blog before.
2) there appears to be an unexpected boom in beer sales. 3rd category beer sales in July were up 40% over last year, happoshu 3% and beer 2%. The likely reason for this is the unusually hot summer we are having.
Percentage of Arable Land Utilized (not sure how you go over 100%)
105.1% 97.7% 93.4%
Hectares of Farm Land Abandoned to Other Uses (in thousands)
135 244 386
Most of the other numbers in the report are less interesting as they deal with the case Japan is trying to make about Japanese consumers preferring Japanese produced food.
Some more interesting numbers from the same article are the following, concerning Japanese grain imports (how much and from where).
Wheat (148.9 billion yen)
America 53.8%, Canada 24.2%, Australia 21.9%
Soy (149.1 billion yen)
America 76.5%, Canada 9.2%, Brazil 8.1%, China 6.2%
Corn (300.8 billion yen)
America 96.3%, China 2.8%
Great Britain 70%
South Korea 46%
Seven Eleven - thinner plastic bags
Asahi Beer - less aluminum in beer cans
Nissin Foods - ramen cups from resin/paper
Ezaki Glico - thinner boxes
Suntory - less material in PET bottles
Morinaga Milk - thinner glass bottles
Nippon Ham - thinner film on sausages
As a result, a number of large natural cheese factories have opened in the past year. The June 1st issue of the Hokkaido Shimbun gave some details on the new factories and new production capacity. The numbers below are given in tons of raw milk used yearly.
Previously domestic natural cheese production was very limited. Expect to see a large number of new cheese products in the coming months.
Japanese supermarket sales depend on supermarket circulars which come with daily newspapers. If you want to stick with the same product, but get it at the cheapest price, you are likely to have to keep up with the circulars and buy at a different store each week depending on where it is on sale.
I have read that this is why Walmart, through its Seiyu department stores in Japan, have not been able to get across the everyday low prices concept. Most Japanese shoppers, read housewives, still think about supermarket circulars first.
Here is a website where many of the supermarket circulars are reproduced.
Many Japanese company histories are included, but some are very much out of date. Nevertheless, it is an interesting place to start when you have struck out everywhere else.
I first became aware of this blog through Neil Duckett's blog.
There was a very interesting topic covered in The Health Report on July 28th concerning the reliability of published research data.
Professor John Ioannidis, Chairman of the Department of Hygiene and Epidemiology University of Ioannina Greece and Tufts University Boston, claims that 90 percent of research findings end up being false. There are a number of reasons given in an article he authored as well as the show transcpript and podcast. I highly recommend both.
His major point appears to boil down to the fact that p > 0.5, while generally recognized as being significant, is susceptible to false positives when huge amounts of data are being trolled for any possible associations. Only 10 percent of these associations pan out following further investigation.
Another way to view the same thing is if 10 groups study an association and only one group finds a significant association, that is the paper which gets published.
There was an article in today's Nikkei MJ outlining the announced the recent sales and earnings figures. I mention it here to give those interested an idea of the size of these sales. The units are in "oku" yen or hundred million yen and are projected 2008 sales through the end of the year.
Nice alternatives are cold noodle dishes such as reimen (冷麺), a cold ramen dish, or somen (素麺) which is made from different ingredients and is often served on ice. Reimen has a stronger taste, while somen depends just on the taste of the noodles and the diluted soy sauce based dip. Somen really cannot be beat and I know of Japanese who choose somen for their first meal back in Japan after a long overseas trip.
One item which comes as a bit of a surprise to me is milk. I love milk and it is cold, but it is also thick. If I am really hot, I usually want to drink something a bit more watery, like a sports drink or water itself, but sales of milk are usually helped quite a bit by hot summer temperatures. Maybe people are smarter than I give them credit for and choose healthy milk over sugary drinks.
Interesting idea, but I would like to see some hard evidence first.
Last week, both of the topics were very interesting. The first topic was concerning a study on various weight loss diets: traditional low fat diet (with calorie restriction), Mediterranean diet (olive oil, nuts and fish), and low carb diet (with no calorie restrictions).
The results for both weight loss and blood fats was the same: low carb > Mediterranean diet > traditional low fat diet.
There are many ways to conduct such trials and comparing diets is very difficult. One interesting aspect was that there was no attempt to standardize calorie intakes. Emphasis was placed on diets which could be maintained as permanent life-styles and the ability to closely monitor the subjects. The result were extremely low dropout rates.
The debate will surely continue, but this one study in the New England Journal of Medicine does support my personal opinion that refined sugars are more of a concern than fats.
Shai I et al. Weight Loss with a Low-Carbohydrate, Mediterranean, or Low-Fat Diet. New England Journal of Medicine, July 17, 2008;359;3:229-241
In addition to the CPP-ACP ingredient in other Recaldent gums, this new offering has a long lasting taste which will allow you to chew more. The company cites studies that show that people are eating more and more soft food and therefore chewing less, even though there are other studies which show that chewing has important connections to saliva production and mental functions.
So in addition to the dental health market, they are trying to target students and other people looking for any mental edge possible.
Beer companies have been trying to counter high taxes for many years, now the high prices of ingredients is making this even more important for beer companies and consumers.
Kirin also announced a new winter season Happoshu (low malt beer) which is lighter tasting for the cold season (actually, I would prefer a richer taste for the cold season, but what do I know). This will go on sale in October.
They also announced a new limited edition beer which uses special hops from Iwate Prefecture and will go on sale in November.
To give you an idea of the prices in the 3 beer categories, the suggested prices will be as follows per 350 ml can:
beer 217 yen
happoshu 161 yen
dai-3 beer 141 yen
This cheese substitute is called sutirino (スティリーノ) and is aimed at the industrial use market or the private brand market. It costs 30 percent less than cheese and can be used at a mix with cheese or as a complete replacement.
I would have to think that the physical properties would differ somewhat from processed cheese and I also wonder about the trans-fats since this is processed plant oil. But the biggest question is taste - if it does not taste good, it will not do well. The taste of good cheese is very complex and almost impossible to copy. The complete set of compounds that contribute to the taste of cheese differ by the variety cheese and are still not completely understood.
Nevertheless, with prices what they are, there will certainly be many more alternatives proposed for a large variety of foods.
Concerning PB, I was mistaken about Seven and I Holdings' private branding, their PB products are sold at a slight discount. Although there is an article in the July 25 edition of Nikkei Shimbun about how all the companies turning to private branding are not immune to commodity prices and are having to increase their prices at the same paces as national brands.
There is also an article in July 26 edition of Nihon Nogyo which addresses if all these retailers are ready to take on the risks associated with product safety, ingredient sourcing, etc. Retailers claim they are ready to take on the risk, but the risks can be huge. One mistake, badly handled can ruin a company.
This type of rice has become very popular due to the ease of preparation, but the article focuses on the carbon footprint of the two types of rice. They conclude that if you include the consumer's washing and the added cost of cleaning up the solids in the waste water, musenmai has a smaller carbon footprint. Interesting, because I would have thought that extra processing would have lead to the opposite, but there is not extra processing, just different processing.
What I found interesting was that it is such a boost for unagi sales that this year Taiwan eel farmers are conducting a big push to get Japanese to eat Taiwanese eel, stressing the safety and traceability of Taiwanese cultivated eel.
Here is another interesting post about a new eel extract drink.
I find this very interesting because it was not long ago that nikuman was a seasonal food, only sold in convenience stores during the winter months. This was very noticeable, because each convenience store had to clear out table space for the large nikuman heating machines. Now nikuman, and sometimes oden, have become year-round offerings in convenience stores.
I love nikuman and welcome the availability, but also feel that something Japanese is being lost by not following the seasons. It seems very American to insist on exactly what foods you want regardless of season.
This article on Japan Today notes that bonuses are down due to the overall economy, but I bet the bonuses in the food industry are down much more overall due to the price squeeze most companies are facing.
Most of the new rice cultivation will be of high yield varieties aimed at use as livestock feed.
Sounds like a good place to start - packaging water is certainly on the low end of the technology scale. It should also be a good opportunity to produce a product at a low price, because some makers clearly make a killing on bottled water.
This is not a welcome development for food producers because they depend on brand value to keep prices high enough to make profits. With PB, the retailer simply defines the product specifications and then lets producers bid the rights to produce the product. This reduces the food producers to not much more than contract manufacturers. The up side for producers is that such contracts are usually for large volumes.
One example of PB which is not new is the milk you see at McDonald's. If you look on the side, it is manufactured by Meiji Dairies. Newer examples are convenience stores which are increasing the number of PB very rapidly. Seven-Eleven is part of Seven and I Holdings, therefore both Seven-Eleven and Itoyokado both sell the same PB products. It appears to me that this is an attempt to replace NB, because the prices do not appear to be greatly discounted. I suppose this is why the line is called "Seven Premium".
In an article on Nikkei Trendy, the way Lawson is using PB to keep prices down, as well as the the moves by both Lawson and Seven and I Holdings to make a wider variety of more basic items such as seasonings as PB.
Yamazaki Baking Co. is the largest bread manufacturer in Japan. I don't really like the mass produced bread sold in Japan, but that is really the fault of consumer preference. The white breads are very bland and the crust is removed prior to packaging in many cases. These "lunch packs" are a good idea though. Basically, the lunch packs are two pieces of bread mashed together around the edges with something stuffed inside. Here is my list of some of the interesting points made in the article:
1) this product was first introduced in 1984. With the extremely high turnover of most products in Japan, a 24 year history as a best seller is very impressive indeed.
2) over the years, there have been several hundred versions introduced. That sounds like a lot, but product renewal in Japan happens as fast as product turnover, so this is not really that surprising. It does make one curious to see a list of the interesting variations that must have been introduced over the years. No such list is provided. They do however mention the two most popular varieties though - peanut butter and egg salad.
3) the main reasons cited for the product variety are the desire to have enough variations so that people can buy the product daily without getting tired of the same thing every day and also the products which are only sold in certain regions of Japan (something food companies do frequently in Japan).
4) the marketers first thought, as would I, that the main market for these products would be men who want a quick lunch, but they found that women were the main consumers. The reason turned out to be the appeal to women of a portable light lunch.
5) the article claims that the result of the marketing plan focusing on women has taken the sales in 2001 (0.59 billion yen per year) to a projected 40 billion yen in 2008. Wow!
6) around one million packs are produced every day.
As with many things in Japan, a direct translation does not always convey what is going on. First, strikes in Japan are rarely the long grueling processes that you see in other countries. I remember when I first came to Japan, there was a strike on the private railway that many people used each day to get to work. When people said that there would be a strike starting the next day, I started wondering how to prepare for the coming weeks or months. But the strike ended up being just several hours long, just long enough to make a small point. The issues were settled not long after.
In this case fishermen are "striking" against the consumer, and it is not clear to me what they hope to gain. The first squid strike caused a temporary jump of 32% in the wholesale price of squid. The purpose was call attention to high fuel prices which make fishing unprofitable.
In this more general strike, the aim is the same - calling attention to the effect of high fuel prices. Eventually, they appear to want fuel subsidies from the government, but have not made specific demands yet.
In graduate school, I remember a European friend of mine laughing for days after hearing a commercial on TV for a US beer. I forget which brand it was, but the ad campaign touted the fact that the beer had "no aftertaste". My friend kept saying "No aftertaste?? You drink beer FOR the aftertaste!!". I also wonder if this is somehow related to the way many Americans seem to drink to get drunk and not to slowly enjoy the taste of a good beer.
I have to say that I agree with the European approach. I like beers with a strong taste (and aftertaste) and therefore tend to choose bitter or stout beers.
I like the taste of Japanese beer, which does not differ all that much between the major manufacturers.
Occasionally there are ad campaigns for Budweiser using the Budweiser girls in their racy outfits and there are posters and cutouts of the same girls in some Tokyo bars, but the market penetration in Japan is very low for US brands.
InBev does not even have a website focused on Japan (English or Japanese). Becks and Stella Artois can be found, but even less frequently than Budweiser.
Suntory actually taking No 3 might be a bit premature, because they held off on price increases following the last price hike in wheat prices. Sapporo plans to make up for the lost sales once Suntory brings its prices in line with other producers.
I am not sure who wins, but these moves will likely put pressure on other companies to follow suit.
Since 2004 they have been phasing out the National brand (I understand that this is due to the difficulty of obtaining trademarks in other countries), and as of October of this year, the name of the company itself will become Panasonic, replacing the namesake of the founder. At that point, the brand consolidation will be complete and Matsushita and National will not be used anymore.
Coca Cola - Aquarius This was introduced in the 1980s and is an isotonic drink. It remains a strong brand for Coca Cola here in Japan, but is not used outside Japan for some reason. Outside Japan, Coca Cola sells Poweraide.
Meiji Dairies Corporation - VAAM This was the first amino acid drink introduced in Japan (or possibly anywhere) and it is based on the amino acid mixture which hornets feed on and which allows them to fly long distances. Naoko Takahashi won the Sydney Olympics Women's Marathon while using VAAM.
Otsuka Seiyaku - Amino Value This is another amino acid drink, but it stresses the value of branched-chain amino acids, which are said to assist recovery. Mizuki Noguchi won the Athens Olympics Women's Marathon while using this Amino Value.
It is interesting to note that Gatoraide has tried several times to crack the Japanese market, but has failed with several different partners.
But the main frustration with given names is that they are used much less than in the West. In Japanese, if you just use someone's given name, it would sound like he or she is a family member or a very close friend. If there are two Suzuki's in the office, they might be distinguished by their given name and possibly by use of only their given names, but this would still be somewhat uncommon.
What is really confusing is when a Japanese uses only his or her given name when doing international business, or worse, he or she chooses a shortened version (such as Tak or Yasu) or even a Western nickname. Generally, that name is of no use when you try to employ it in Japan. If you just ask for someone by his or her given name, you will likely receive a blank stare. Even in the same office, only a minority of people would be able to state the full names of all their coworkers.
Over the past 10 years or so, computer systems have made it necessary to be able to at least pick out the full name of the person you are looking for, but stating full names from memory is another matter.
- cheese prices are expected to go up another 10 to 15 percent by next Autumn, due to increasing dairy ingredient prices,
- as in other industries, repackaging is also being used in addition to price increases (for example, 10 slice processed cheese packs are now 8 slice packs),
- the price increases will likely lead to reduced imports of natural cheese and lower consumption of industrial use cheeses.
There is also a nice chart showing the variation in the Japanese cheese production and consumption for each year from 1990 to 2007. Here are some interesting numbers (all in tons) comparing the years 1990 and 2007 (data from the Agriculture and Fisheries Ministry).
Domestic Natural Cheese Production 28,415 and 42,948
Imported Natural Cheese 111,629 and 211,405
Processed Cheese Consumption 77,428 and 163,262
Total Cheese Consumption 153,325 and 279,189
(some of the natural cheese is used to produce the processed cheese)
flour 137 to 157 yen
cup ramen 91 to 108 yen
spaghetti 142 to 174 yen
white bread 125 to 136 yen
The season was a bit delayed this year and the yield is down (due to the cool weather, I suppose), but still the season started only two days later than last year and lasted for the same number of days. The exact same pattern of harvested tea-per-day was shown both years. The first days are best and then the yield per day decreases steadily. This would not be interesting to someone in the tea industry, but I find the way mother nature keeps to a fairly strict schedule interesting.
2007 Season April 19th to May 17th
2008 Season April 21st to May 19th
The article points out that for the 3rd year in a row, the price of even good quality tea is down. That goes against the trends for other crops, especially grains.
I have always considered the idea behind biofuels to be ridiculous. The whole idea is clearly aimed at supporting farmers. And since Iowa is one of the first primary states for any presidential election, all presidents have to be pro-corn and pro-biofuel. But putting that much energy into making something to burn has always sounded crazy.
Japan has some initiatives to use the power from trash they intend to burn anyway. That makes a lot of sense. If I remember correctly that was referred to as biofuel also, even though the concept was quite different.
Recently, people who are environmentally conscious and who also believe that organic food is more healthy have had to start balancing their desire to buy organic food (which might not be locally produced) with their desire to fight climate change by buying locally (and thus minimizing transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions).
As I read it, this article addresses two big questions: how much does distance and transportation add to the carbon emissions related to food in the US? and what are the differences in total emissions (production and transportation) between food categories in the US?
The answer to the first question is not all that much. Total transportation only contributes 11% of the life-cycle greenhouse emissions of a product (4% of which is final delivery). Therefore savings can be made by buying locally, but not all that much. (I would add that buying locally, might very well involve less efficient production.)
To answer the second question, the data was broken down into seven groups:
2) Cereals, Carbohydrates
3) Chicken, Fish, Eggs
5) Fruit, Vegetables
6) Oils, Sweets, Condiments
7) Red Meat
The emissions of each these categories was measured four different ways: CO2/household, CO2/dollar, CO2/kCal and CO2/kg.
Red meat comes out as the largest contributor by a large margin using any of these measures (the authors estimate that red meat contributes 150% more greenhouse gases than chicken or fish). Dairy comes out high based on CO2/dollar (I would think this is because milk is historically very inexpensive relative to its nutritional value). When CO2/household and CO2/kCal are used, the contribution from dairy falls back a good deal, and when CO2/kg is used dairy falls in line with the minor contributors.
The authors suggest that replacing some red meat and dairy intake with chicken or fish, say once a week, would have a greater positive impact on the environment than buying locally.
It still looks to me like dairy should not be in the same category as red meat. Nevertheless, this is an interesting study and will surely invite similar analyses in other countries.
My personal opinion is that there is great promise in genetically modified foods, but the products which have made it to market so far have benefited farmers more than consumers, leading to the backlash. When clearly superior products, which are only available by genetic modification, start to hit the market, some consumers might change their attitudes on the subject.
Japan attitudes are closer to those of people in Europe than those in the US. No Japanese company wants to sell genetically modified food, but with so many commodities coming from the US, genetically modified ingredients are hard to avoid.
In the March issue, Nippon Ham published a set of three trials (anti-fatigue efficacy and two safety) on their imidazole dipeptides (CBEX-Dr) which are extracted from chicken breasts. Companies don't usually put out that much effort and money on human efficacy and safety trials unless they are serious.
The results were positive, but as there is not yet a FOSHU category for anti-fatigue, one wonders when they will be able to use the data and if so, will the protocols in this study be acceptable. It is not easy to measure fatigue.
The trials were all in the form of a drink, so maybe we can look forward to such a chicken breast extract drink from Nippon Ham.
Rakuten is a large on-line seller in Japan, similar to Yahoo, with many affiliated stores.
I see that dairy is not mentioned in the article, possibly because dairy is a bit more difficult and possibly because most of the major dairy companies already have home delivery networks.
Refrigerated express delivery (or "cool-bin", クール宅急便) has been a standard service for a long time in Japan and it is very convenient - no need for dry ice, for example. And as this article explains, it also makes new business concepts possible. The same service would not be possible in the US.
It is very possible that in the past both makers and consumers liked the situation because prescribed drugs or devices are usually covered by health insurance. In this case, the government and/or makers are betting that usage will increase if the patches are sold over the counter.
There are almost daily articles in the papers about different companies raising prices. If you look closely though, you will see how long it has been since prices were last raised. There was an article in the April 3rd issue of Nihon Shokugyo which said that milk prices were being raised for the first time in 30 years. In the April 19th issue of Nihon Keizai Shimbun, an article announces that Kentucky Fried Chicken was raising prices on chicken for the first time in 16 years.
Many companies will face a penalty from the government if their workers do not on average make improvements, but for food and pharmaceutical companies this is also an opportunity to boost sales for products which help fight metabolic syndrome. Such products have been on the market for years now, but this new government policy is definitely giving the whole category a boost.
Only a few years ago, one would never hear the term metabolic syndrome except in scientific conversations, but these days it is a very common topic of everyday conversation.
Actually, I have read some unpublished reports on the development of definitions and standards for metabolic syndrome which are very interesting, but that is a topic for another day.
I ordered with the expectation of receiving Japanese portions or newly reduced Japanese portions as I have seen recently, but was surprised to receive something closer to American portions - unusual in Japan. J's Garden is part of the Johnathon's Family Restaurant group. I checked on the website and it looks like the locations are mostly in residential areas, so there is a better chance of coming across one in a car than near a station.
I give it a thumbs up compared with other family restaurants.
As I remember, another company isolated the main ingredient responsible for old man smell, but I am not sure what product resulted from that discovery.
Very sad, but it is also going to have a ripple effect - first on the crops directly effected, corn and soy, then on other grains as well, since there is a certain amount of interchangeability. It might also have an effect on oil prices as corn is increasingly being used for biofuel. Corn prices have reached 7 dollars per bushel for the first time ever, and oil prices are now being predicted to reach 140 dollars per barrel (although I have not seen a flood-oil price link referred to yet).
The article credits brand loyalty and stronger oversees sales. I am not in marketing, but I would guess that brand loyalty is not nearly as strong in Japan, because a culture of always trying something new has been cultivated. Consumers see a price they consider too high or a box they think is not as big as it should be and they simply buy something else.
Japanese dairy farmers are also being squeezed by high food prices, or at least the Japanese government thinks so. According to this article, the 187.1 billion yen in supports for dairy farmers and stockbreeders, which was already up 63.2 billion yen from last year is going to be raised an additional 70 billion yen. These are mostly in the form of unit-subsidies.
I feel sure the butter shortage has also influenced this move, although any boosts in production will lag far behind a stimulus - especially in the dairy industry, where you cannot exactly plant more cows next year, you have to breed more herds of dairy cattle to make a difference.
In a very unscientific survey, sampling size n=1, my wife said typical trips to the grocery store which used to cost around 6 to 7 thousand yen, now lost around 9 thousand yen.
Personally, I thought that the Burger King taste was the main problem, even though I like it myself. Burger King sandwiches have a strong meaty taste and aroma which is not common in Japan. This is in contrast with McDonald's sandwiches which are much milder in this respect.
I will just mention a few points I find interesting.
1) preference: sugar free/black > latte-type > low sugar/milk added > sugar/milk added > low sugar/black > no sugar/milk > expresso > sugar/black,
2) the biggest deviation in the above is with latte-type drinks (including cafe au lait) which are much more popular among younger people than older people,
3) canned coffee is much more popular than chilled cup coffee, only among women does the preference come close to that of canned coffee,
4) reason for drinking canned coffee: change mood or feeling > relax > wake up > no reason > need for something in mouth > to concentrate,
5) people who smoke or frequent convenience stores have the strongest preference for canned coffee,
6) ability to mention a brand name: Boss > Georgia >>>> Wonda > Fire > others
The interest in low sugar products is clear, as is the excellent marketing job Suntory has done with the Boss brand.
There is a concern that with increasing food prices, poor mothers may try to stretch infant formula by watering it down. This is certainly not the right thing to do.
Breast milk is the best option for infants. If mother's cannot breastfeed their infants, infant formula is the next best option. Food companies put a great deal of research into making infant formula as close to breast milk as possible. The science in this area has progressed a great deal in recent years, but it is important to use infant formula as directed. After all for that important period, infant formula will be the only nutrition the child will consume.
Taking the discussion a little further, cow's milk is not appropriate for infants either. The composition of cow's milk and mother's milk is significantly different. This is something that was not fully realized a generation or so ago.
There is an interesting paper in Nutrition Research "Acidic Beverages Increase the Risk of in vitro Tooth Erosion". A group at U of Iowa College of Dentistry compared the effect of Gatorade, Red Bull, Coke, Diet Coke, and Apple Juice, as examples of sports drinks, energy drinks, carbonated soft drinks, diet drinks and juices, respectively, on extracted teeth.
In a pretty simple setup, they simply soaked the extracted teeth in each drink for 25 hours, refreshing the liquid every 5 hours. The acidities of the drinks were measured by straight forward titration. They only went high-tech, and thus beyond what you could do in a high school chemistry class, when they started to measuring the lesions.
Interestingly, the lesion depths corresponded roughly but not exactly with the acidity of the drinks. The most acidic drink was Red Bull, but Gatorade did the most harm. The lesions were measured in micrometers and the results were Gatorade (131), Red Bull (100), Coke (92), Diet Coke (61) and 100% Apple Juice (57).
Anyone who has seen the chemistry demonstration in which a highly acidic solution is used to dissolve a tooth, will not be surprised. This study appears to be a more scientific recreation of the same thing. It still does not tell you exactly what is going to happen under in vivo conditions, but basic chemistry suggests that anyone who spends a great deal of time each day swishing around acidic liquids is not doing his or her teeth much good.
If you want the opposite effect, try dairy. There appear to be a number of reasons why dairy actually acts to inhibit tooth decay (calcium, active proteins, beneficial bacteria, low acidity, etc.). Below are two representative papers on dairy and dental health.
Bulgarian Sumo wrestler Kotooshu became the first European to win a major sumo tournament or basho. It was big news here in Japan and good news for the sumo association, coming after two years of scandal and generally unfavorable publicity.
This has a direct relation to the food industry, because Kotooshu is sponsored by Meiji Dairies Corporation which makes Japan's best selling yogurt brand - Bulgaria Yogurt. The name is interesting enough, but as is written on the package the brand is "Licensed by Bulgaria". This is the only case I know of where a country licenses its name for a commercial product.
If you follow the 2nd link below, you can see Kotooshu's ceremonial belt or Kesho-musubi, which doubles an advertisement for the yogurt.
Bulgaria Yogurt has been the best selling yogurt in Japan for decades, long before Kotooshu came to Japan. The brand image is that of a traditional and healthy yogurt coming from a country known for its yogurt eating traditions and long, healthy life spans. The product was introduced at the 1970 World Expo, around the same time Bulgarians were known for their long life scans. Recent statistics inspire less envy, but the positive image for Bulgaria remains.
Here is Kotooshu's Wikipedia page:
Here is a link to the Meiji Dairies' Kotooshu webpage: http://www.meijibulgariayogurt.com/koto/index.html
Here is a link to a Bulgaria yogurt commercial featuring Kotooshu (video): http://www.meinyu.jp/fun/cm/product/movie/burugaria_002.wmv
Polished Rice (コメ、精米) 341 yen per kg (resulting in a 788% tariff at current prices)
Wheat (小麦) 55 yen per kg (252% tariff)
Beans (小豆) 354 yen per kg (402% tariff)
Sugar (粗糖) 71.8 yen per kg (305% tariff)
Butter (バター) 29.8% of price + 985 yen per kg (360% tariff)
Cheese (チーズ) 29.8% of price (29.8% tariff)
It does not take a close analysis of the data to see two things:
1) what food items Japan already produces and wants to protect, or put another way, what items Japan believes it can have a degree of self-sufficiency in,
2) why there is no butter on store shelves, but cheese is still easy to find. In the article, it states that Japan has a goal of being 90% self-sufficient in butter. Demand was misjudged several years ago (when such things need to be planned for) and now there is no quick fix. World prices have sky rocketed and to that price an additional 360% is added, which results in it being very difficult to import butter to make up the difference.
A year and a half after it first opened, you cannot walk around Shinjuku without seeing people carrying large boxes of Krispy Kreme donuts. I see on the internet that they will open their 5th location later this week.
Even though I have lived in Japan a long time, I would have had my reservations about opening a Krispy Kreme here. Shows how little I know, I suppose. The marketing was good though, "the hugely popular American donut chain is finally coming to Japan!". The morning news shows all had segments about the opening.
When I first came to Japan, nothing tasted sweet to me because I was accustomed to the American degree of sweetness. Once I became accustomed to Japanese foods (or should I say foods available in Japan), foods in America started to seem sickeningly sweet (and greasy for that matter). You often hear Japanese say, even of foods sold in Japan, "that is too sweet". I rarely if ever hear that from Americans.
A good example is birthday cake in America, which I have heard many Japanese complain about - thick icing made of almost pure sugar.
I have read that other US donut chains half the amount of icing when they open shops in Japan (I don't know about Krispy Kreme).
Last Christmas in the US, my family and I visited a Krispy Kreme for the first time. I thought the donuts were good, especially when hot - too sweet, but that goes without saying. The reaction of my children surprised me though. They did not finish their donuts, saying that they were too sweet. Then after seeing how the donuts are made - basically a bread and fat mixture deep fried and then dipped in pure sugar - my kids said it was interesting but disgusting and they didn't want to go back again. That reaction surprised even me. I thought children would adapt to the US degree of sweetness more quickly than that. Can't say I was unhappy with that response though.
This sounds like I am going on an anti-Krispy Kreme campaign, which is really not my intent, but I do think it is a good example both of fads in Japan and how hard it can be to predict what will be popular in Japan.
which discusses the importance of not leaving food out too long.
There are lots of statistics which show that food poisoning is much more prevalent than most people assume. In fact, many cases of food poisoning are likely shrugged off as upset stomachs or stomach bugs not realizing that mishandling of food was the cause. This article however states that there are 5 million cases of food poisoning in Australia every year. That is pretty amazing considering the entire population is only around 20 million.
I checked with the source sited in the article and indeed the Food Safety Information Council states that there are 5.4 million cases of food borne disease a year.
I then found the original source of the information, the Australian Department of Health and Aging's "Foodborne Illness in Australia" report of 2000.
(** PDF file **)
It turns out to be even more interesting. This survey estimates 17.2 million cases of gastroenteritis a year, of which 5.4 million are thought to result from contaminated food. The definition is broad enough to cover many cases which do not result in a visit to the doctor, but these are still pretty surprising statistics considering the population of the country.
I might try looking up the numbers for Japan, but nevertheless think it would be hard to directly compare the two (the survey methods would likely be significantly different).
In addition to being a measure of how important it is to handle food properly, this also makes a case for consuming probiotics - the easiest way I know of to avoid gastrointestinal problems. Most probiotics sold by major dairy food companies have scientific data backing up their claims of effectiveness. Probiotics will not prevent gastrointestinal problems but there is a great deal if evidence that they reduce occurrence of such problems.
In Japan, probiotics along with prebiotics make up the largest category of FOSHU foods - that is foods with government approved health claims. In fact, the majority of yogurts sold in Japan have probiotic strains added, not just starter strains.
Not only is there a nice selection of European beers, but there are also wines and Japanese sake and shochu. Faux German beer hall wallpaper which along with the ornamental beer taps give the place some atmosphere. And most importantly, the sushi is pretty good.
As with all keiten sushi restaurants, the prices are indicated by the plate colors. Aside form the Japanese-Western mix, it does seem a little odd to have fine beers and wines (slow dinning) paired with keiten sushi which is a high turnover concept.