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Interior view of the huge fridge with various brand frozen food in Aeon mall Asahikawa, Japan

Frozen Food Heats Up in Japan

Dec. 8, 2022
But you have to look at why it’s happening.

The frozen food industry should be delighted with news coming out of Japan: the dish of the year there is “frozen food.”

But not too delighted.

The “dish of the year” appellation comes from the Gurunavi Research Institute, which apparently identifies a new food trend in Japan every year. Previous winners have been “plant-based foods” and “Chinese cooking.” Apparently ordinary frozen meat, pizza, etc. is the trend of the year in the Land of the Rising Sun.

That should be quite an honor. After all, we’re talking about a country with some of the most highly developed food aesthetics in the world – a place where a radish becomes a work of art. Except the honor dissipates a little when you look at the reason behind it:

Frozen food helped Japan get through the pandemic.

According to national statistics cited by CNN, sales of frozen food rose 20% from 2019 to 2021. Retailers expanded their frozen-food sections, with one of the country’s biggest, Aeon, even opening up a 4,500-sq.-ft. store devoted entirely to frozen products.

There are also other, familiar dynamics at work behind the frozen-food surge, according to the CNN article: working mothers who still have to fix dinner, people living alone who don’t want to cook.

In other words, what we’re seeing is a Japanese version of the familiar dynamic for frozen food: It’ll do when you can’t get anything better.

Maybe I’m being too harsh. We’ll have to check back in a few years to see whether Japanese frozen food sales fall back down again.

About the Author

Pan Demetrakakes | Senior Editor

Pan has written about the food and beverage industry for more than 25 years. His areas of coverage have included formulations, processing, packaging, marketing and retailing. Pan worked for Food Processing Magazine for six years in the 1990s, where he was operations editor (his current role), touring dozens of food plants of every description. He has also worked for Packaging and Food & Beverage Packaging magazines, the latter as chief editor, during which he won three ASBPE awards. He is a graduate of Stanford University with a BA in communications.

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