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 88 of 159

to explain the quarantine zones and let our customers know that most of our inventory was already here in the U.S., so it had no chance of being contaminated," Asianfoodgrocer.com's Caraballo says. Pacific Mercantile's Inai also encountered initial concerns over radiation. "We still have a couple of customers ask about the safety of products, but we see much less interest now," he notes. Inai posted paperwork on store shelves for his customers to read that he received from the FDA and Japanese companies declaring the products safe. He also used in-store signage to indicate "pre-tsunami" inventory. Although worries have mostly abated, JETRO's Shin Hirota suggests companies still dealing with questions and uncertainties from customers regarding product safety contact his offices for assistance or visit jetro.org. Optimistic Outcome One unexpected positive effect of the catastrophe is that consumer interest in Japanese products has been piqued. "Sales have only been deterred by out-of-stocks," says Jungle Jim's Beckett. "Otherwise, the earthquake caused awareness and we have seen steady sales growth in the Japanese category overall. Rishi Tea has experienced a whopping 35 percent jump in Japanese green tea sales in 2011, and Kaiser notes that the country's green tea exports to the U.S. were up 20 percent overall. "It's a strange anomaly that has come out of this disaster," he says, noting that Rishi has recently added two new green teas from Japan to its line: Genmai Matcha Organic and Super Green Organic. The Future: Flavored Kit Kats, Artisan Cheese and the Miracle Noodle With awareness for certain Japanese specialty products flourishing among U.S. consumers, Caraballo cites confections as an upcoming hit. He points to Kit Kat bars in once-exclusive Japanese flavors such as Sakura Matcha Latte (cherry blossom and green tea) and Caramelized Sweet Potato. Shirotaki noodles (a.k.a. The Miracle Noodle) are poised to be the next big thing, he adds. Made from konnyaku (konjac) yam, Shirotaki noodles are a calorie- and carb-free favorite with a high soluble-fiber content that is said to slow diges- tion and prolong the feeling of fullness. In Japan, as western luxuries like wine become more common, specialty artisan cheesemakers are budding. Last year, the Japan Dairy Council estimated that the country had about 170 artisanal cheesemaking studios. In October 2011, the Wall Street Journal reported that Signature, a French restaurant in the Mandarin Oriental hotel in Tokyo, offered for the first time an all-Japanese cheese platter. The selection included a bold semi-hard Hokkaido that matured while marinating in red miso, and a blue cheese from Sarabetsu Studio in Hokkaido. Gourmet Cookie Crisps Sweet, but not too sweet, Mia Dolci is delicious alone or paired with your favorite coffee, tea, sorbet, or ice cream. Flavors: Chocolate Vanilla Swirl Toasted Hazelnut Cinnamon Crisp Lightly Lemon 6.5 oz. or 2.0 oz. Sizes: To help promote Japanese foods, JETRO has been ramping up its social media efforts on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube as well as hosting events. Last May, JETRO Chicago, along with the Consulate General of Japan at Chicago and the Sake Export Association of Japan, sponsored a sake promotional event featur- ing tastings and pairings for Chicago's food and beverage com- munity. Participants included two breweries, Nanbubijin Inc. and Okunomatsu Sake Brewing Co., from the impacted Tohoku region. At the Winter Fancy Food Show in San Francisco this year, nearly 30 specialty food producers are exhibiting products such as miso, sake, soy sauce and the konjac root (see box, p. 84), several of which are from the Tohoku region, notes Kris Miller, project coor- dinator for JETRO, Los Angeles. "The message we want to pass on," Miller says, "is that the Japanese Nicole Potenza Denis is a con- tributing editor to Specialty Food Magazine. food industry is still strong and recovering well." |SFM| FIND MORE Japanese products by visiting the Product Finder on specialtyfood.com. F AMILY OWNED SIMPLY DELICIOUS WWW PARTNERSCRACKERS COM s PARTNERS, A Tasteful Choice Company Winter Fancy Food Show Booth 3005 JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2012 87

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