Food Trends in Japan: Consumer Insights and Preferences

Explore the latest trends in the Japanese food and beverage industry

July 3, 2024 – Utilizing 360 level market and consumer research, here we explore the drivers behind evolving Japanese food and beverage trends, offering valuable insights for brands. We will highlight key information across main overarching categories within the Japanese food and beverage industry: beverages, everyday staples, meal preparation, snacks and treats, and plant-based and special diets.

Beverage Trends

Food trends in Japan research shows that beverage consumption habits are shifting, with a slight decline in alcoholic beverage consumption. This food trend is driven by factors like health concerns, changing lifestyles, and budget constraints. While indulgence remains important, consumers are increasingly seeking healthier options and controlling their intake. Some consumers are turning to non-alcoholic alternatives, for both health and indulgence reasons. ‘Because it is healthy’ is the top driver for increasing intake of non-alcoholic beverages, and indulgence claims are the most important for Japanese consumers.

Soft drink beverages are gaining traction in the category, particularly those emphasizing natural ingredients, vitamin fortification, and sugar reduction. Bottled water is a prime example, driven by its healthy image. Functional ingredients are also gaining importance, with consumers seeking specific benefits like energy boosts or improved hydration.

Coffee consumption is an increasing food trend in Japan, with taste being the primary driver. However, indulgence is also a significant factor, particularly for premium and decaffeinated options. One in two Japanese consumers also tend to drink hot tea and coffee during the afternoon.

Insights Into Everyday Staples

Everyday staples are a significant part of food trends in Japan. With a high penetration rate of 86%, Japanese consumers are one of the most regular purchasers of bread globally, compared to the global average of 78%. While budget is a major factor for those decreasing their bread intake, indulgence claims are a key driver for increasers. Food trend research also shows that Japanese consumers are looking for products that offer both taste and health benefits, with fiber being a highly sought-after attribute.

The penetration rate for dairy in Japan is 72%, falling in line with the global average of 73%. Demand has been increasing in the past year for cheese, milk, and yogurt, with milk seeing the highest net gain overall. Cost and health attributes are highly important for Japanese consumers when purchasing dairy products. Additionally, product safety is the top choice factor across dairy categories, with one in three consumers citing it for each category.

When it comes to meat and fish food trends in Japan, local and natural sourcing are key factors influencing purchasing decisions. While health concerns are driving the demand for healthier options, budget remains a significant factor. Consumers are looking for meat and fish that are safe, natural, and local.

Food Trends in Japan

Meal Preparation Japanese Consumer Trends

Japanese consumers are increasingly looking for convenient meal preparation solutions, but their attitudes towards different options are mixed. While product safety is a top priority, indulgence is also a significant factor influencing purchasing decisions of these foods.

In bouillons stocks and seasonings, the top reason for those upping their intake is changing lifestyle and needs, cited by one-half of consumers. Clean labels and natural claims are also important to consumers in these categories. However, health concerns are turning some consumers away from consuming dips.

For savory and sweet spread consumers, besides safety and indulgence, consumers are looking for claims related to naturalness and certain health credentials, notably sugar reduction.

Cost and taste are paramount for Japanese consumers when it comes to meal preparation foods, with these attributes over-indexing global averages. This is particularly true for ready meals, table sauces, and cooking sauces.

Snacks and Treats Trends

In Japan, snacks and sweet treats hold a significant place in consumer food trends. While indulgence is a primary driver for purchasing these items, health concerns are also emerging, particularly regarding sugar reduction.

Where consumers are reducing their intake of certain snacks and treats, health is the over-riding consideration, but budget is the top concern in sweet biscuits. Product safety remains the most significant influence when making a purchase in all but salty snacks, where indulgence is most important. Indulgence is also key across these categories. Sugar reduction is a top concern in sugar confectionery.

Cereal and energy bars saw a slight increase in consumption in the last year, driven by consumers considering them as healthier snack options. Food trend research also shows that protein is the top claim consumers are looking for in these products.

Plant-Based and Special Diets Trends in Japan

In Japan, the uptake of plant-based alternative and special diet products is mixed. Consumer purchases of meat alternatives show a lower penetration rate compared to the global average (8% vs. 20%). However, consumers are showing interest in dairy alternatives, but the specific category performance varies. For example, non-dairy milk and yogurt are seeing higher demand than non-dairy cheese. Furthermore, in sports nutrition, the Japanese purchasing rate is higher than average. In all categories of plant-based and special diet foods, consumption has increased in the past year.

Purchase drivers for meat and dairy alternatives are varied, with health, promotional activity, environmental and ethical concerns, increased variety and novelty, and more awareness of brands all contributing to increased uptakes.

Product safety is generally important to Japanese consumers in this category, but other key claims involve health – mainly protein, but also fiber in non-dairy cheese and sugar reduction in non-dairy milk – plant-based and organic positionings in meat substitutes and indulgence in non-dairy yogurt.

The demand for sports and functional nutrition is also on the rise, with 43% of consumers citing health as a reason for increasing their intake. Product safety is the most important claim for consumers.

What’s Next in Food Trends in Japan?

The Japanese food and beverage market is constantly innovating, with consumers seeking indulgent experiences, prioritizing product safety, and increasingly conscious of health and cost.

Japanese consumers highly value indulgent eating and drinking experiences. Innovators can focus on creating unique flavors and textures that inspire experimentation. Leveraging both well-loved local flavors and global influences will likely be key.

While indulgence is important, health remains a significant driver. Brands can explore combining established health claims with added functionality. Low-fat, low-sugar, and high-protein options are in demand, along with functional ingredients that offer additional benefits.

Transparency and clear messaging regarding ingredient sourcing and production processes are also paramount. Consumers are increasingly concerned about safety, so brands can emphasize clean labels and simple formulations with natural ingredients.

Finally, consumers are balancing budgets, making cost a key consideration. Brands can look into developing products that offer value for money without compromising on quality or taste.


This article is based on our report, “Category Growth Drivers in Japan.” If you are interested in reading this report, feel free to request a demo.
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