What will be hot in Japan in 2016?  With a large staff of food application specialists and scientists in Japan, we asked our colleagues to give us their insights on the top food and beverage trends in Japan in 2016.  Here are our top three picks:

1.  Unique Ice Cream and Frozen Treats

From 2005 to 2014, sales of ice cream grew over 20% in the Japanese market, according to a survey by the Japanese Ice Cream Association.  “Ice cream manufacturers are generating consumer interest by innovating with non-traditional ingredients and flavors, such as cream cheese and Mont Blanc cake,” said Yuko Kobayashi, food ingredients marketing associate at NAGASE.  “Unique frozen treats will continue to drive market growth in 2016 with unique flavors and toppings, non-dairy ice creams, frozen ice cream-confectionary fusions, and more.”

2.  Universal Design Foods

Universal design foods are foods formulated to be easy to eat by all types of people, including everyday meals and foods formulated for the elderly.  These foods bear a logo that includes a ranking for the ease of chewing the food.  Example products include canned peaches or pureed pork and vegetables.  “Universal design foods showed increased sales of 86% between 2009 and 2013, according to the Japan Food Care Conference” said Yuko.  “Food manufacturers will be launching more products in this category as Japan’s population continues aging.”

3.  Functional Food and Beverages 2.0

In 2015, the Japanese Consumer Affairs Agency amended the health claims system for food and beverages, which is expected to profoundly impact the activities of food and ingredient manufacturers in 2016.  For the first time, this updated system allows for function claims, in addition to the previously allowed nutrient and FOSHU (Foods for Specified Health Uses) claims.  Unlike FOSHU, products with function claims do not require individual preapproval, and claims can now be made based on scientific reviews of the functional ingredients the product contains.  As of last December, there were 149 products for which premarket notification for function claims were sent, and the list is expected to grow in 2016.  An important prediction is that ingredients with both and health benefits will be featured more prominently on food product labels as manufacturers aim to produce delicious foods with function claims.  An example is lutein, which has the technical benefit of being a coloring agent, while also playing a role in supporting eye health.

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Japanese Ice Cream Association.  Shuruibetsu hanbaibutsuryo kingaku [Sales and Volume by Product Type].  Retrieved from https://www.icecream.or.jp/data/type.html

Japanese Consumer Affairs Agency.  “Guidance for industry: The System of ’Foods with Function Claims’ Has Been Launched.”  Retrieved from  http://www.caa.go.jp/foods/pdf/151224_2.pdf

Japan Food Care Conference.  Seisan Toukei [Production Statistics].  Retrieved from http://www.udf.jp/statistics/production.html