Specialty Food Magazine

JAN-FEB 2012

Specialty Food Magazine is the leading publication for retailers, manufacturers and foodservice professionals in the specialty food trade. It provides news, trends and business-building insights that help readers keep their businesses competitive.

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Page 84 of 159

and orders continued to come in on schedule," he says. "However, there were obviously serious distribution interruptions because of destroyed infrastructure." Leal ships product to Japan twice a year, and was in between orders when the earthquake and tsunami hit. Although he avoided sales interruptions, demand went down by about 10 percent follow- ing the disaster, he notes. The destabilizing event left the tea industry—a $1.3 billion market for Japan, according to its agriculture ministry—worried for the safety of producers as well as concerned about procuring tea, says Joshua Kaiser, founder and CEO of Rishi Tea, Milwaukee, Wis. "There was an initial rush for companies to secure last year's tea or go to cultivation areas further south," he explains. "This resulted in lower quantities of fresh-leaf tea and doubling prices." Although it did not experience direct damages since its pro- duction facilities are in southern Japan, Ito En, the country's larg- est green tea distributor, faced production delays due to energy conservation efforts that were instituted across Japan. Additionally, its custom bottle-cap facility suffered significant damage, forcing the company to move to another company in Japan to produce the caps. "We temporarily switched to a generic, unbranded version in order to keep production running," notes Rona Tison, senior vice president corporate relations for Ito En, North America Inc. Tison reports that the original company that produced the branded caps is now back in operation after several months of recovery. Tea suppliers and importers were not the only ones facing challenges. Argo Century, Jackson, Fla., imports specialty products such as miso, yuzu juice, sesame oil and bonito flakes from Japan for use in its Tonton sauce line. With many of these items sourced in the south, the company experienced no immediate shortages, but the weak dollar compared to the rising yen has been cause for con- cern. "We have seen a 2 to 5 percent price increase in many items," says Mayumi Burnham, vice president of marketing. "Importing products is expensive, but it can get difficult to raise prices for our customers. The lesson is to always keep your options open and find a secondary or third place to source ingredients. You can't always rely on one area." Similarly, Toshiki Hiroaoka, vice president of Daiei Trading Co. Inc., College Pt., N.Y., an importer of frozen Japanese seafood products and other foodstuffs, has noticed significant price hikes. "Prices are doubling for items like frozen eel," he says. "We are look- ing to find local sources here in the U.S. and are importing some more products from China now." Immediately following the quake, JFC International, a large distributor of Asian brands such as Nishiki, Pocky and Morinaga, faced some restrictions importing food from Japan. Tetsu Mogi, category manager, says that limitations were put on products such as pickled vegetables from the Ibaragi prefecture. "They were Winter Fancy Food Show Booth 2605 World's #1 Best Selling Caribbean Rum Cake >j]]%klYf\af_ K`ahh]j

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