There’s a great big world of food out there, but who can travel to every show? FoodEx was recently held in Tokyo, Japan, and was lucky enough to have Bruce Hoggard on the ground. He filed this report, describing many of the innovative new products showcased. He also outlines the show itself, giving those interested in exhibiting at or visiting foreign trade shows a valuable overview of this key event in the food industry calendar.

Welcome to Tokyo, Japan, the home of FoodEx, the largest food and beverage trade show in the Pacific Rim and the third largest worldwide behind Anuga (Cologne, October 2003) and Sial (Paris, October 2004). This year’s theme, “Discovering the joys of the world’s food cultures” marked the 28th anniversary of this impressive food show. A direct shuttle bus service carried people from the Makuhari Messe to the Tokyo Big Sight, home of BioFach Japan, and the venue for HotoRes Japan 2003, the 31st International Hotel and Restaurant Show, on at the same time as FoodEx.

FoodEx Japan 2003 numbers were again impressive as the 3,400 booths were squeezed into Halls 1 through Hall 8 of the Makuhari Messe. The booths represented 2,515 participating companies, who were themselves representing 78 different countries and regions. In the International Zone there were 1,721 exhibiting companies and organisers accounting for 2,085 booths. Meanwhile the Japanese Zone (domestic companies) had 794 exhibiting companies, equal to 1,315 booths.

The show also had several focus areas, called Plazas, where similar products were grouped together to create “mini-shows”. In its second year as a part of the show, the FoodEx organic & Natural Plaza grew, supporting the importance of the organic industry in Japan and how it too is growing and becoming more popular. A reflection of the changing tastes of Japanese consumers was evident by the fact that the organic and natural products booths comprised a larger share of exhibit space than ever before. The other two major Plazas were the FoodEx Tea & Coffee Plaza and the FoodEx Health Plaza. While speaking about growth, there were close to 80 Chinese booths this year, a noticeable increase from the previous years and an indication of the growing number of Chinese companies competing in the international food markets.

Approximately 99,000 industry visitors took in the show during its four days and once again people were wall-to-wall and shoulder-to-shoulder during the majority of the show.

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As mentioned in last year’s report, once again there were numerous booths, both in the international and domestic sections, where the foreign representatives operating the booths watched the crowds walking by, unable to communicate or promote their respective products. With the majority, more than 85%, of the show visitors being Japanese it is crucial booths have several knowledgeable people who can speak Japanese in attendance. Otherwise, it makes for a long and unrewarding four days. It is also important to have brochures, business cards and other advertising and promotional materials translated correctly into Japanese.

Given the popularity of the show and how quickly booth space is filled, companies interested in participating in FoodEx Japan 2004, 9 to 12 March, 2004, should book space early to ensure they get the location they wish.

Within 15 minutes walking distance of the Makuhari Messe is one of Japan’s first Costco Wholesale stores. Still a novelty in both the Japanese and Asian markets, these hypermarket style stores are definitely worth a visit. By walking amongst the aisles of this Costco store, it was possible to obtain a sense of what products, sizes and quantities were available in Japan. It also provided a glimpse into the pricing and packaging issues, crucial concerns for any company wishing to export or sell in the Japanese market.

Convenient and healthy
One of the many issues in today’s food industry is providing the convenience for the consumer while also providing a healthy and enjoyable food experience. CHIC International Trading, from Shanghai’s Pudong new development area in China, has developed a product that allows it to bring the freshness and taste of Chinese fruits to consumers around the world. Fruitastic™ provides the individual freshness of nine fruits and pure fruit juices in a delicious diced or sliced fruit snack.

Using a revolutionary plastic cup, these fruit snacks fit today’s active lifestyles. The 4 oz “fruits in a plastic cup” conveniently fit in kids’ and/or adults’ lunch boxes and can be used on family trips or whenever and wherever a person has a craving for a fruit snack. The nine various flavours include Oriental Golden Grapefruit, Snow Peach, Mixed Peach and Seedless Grapes. The fruit comes in a diced or sliced form and there is a choice of having the fruit in its own juice or in a light syrup base.

Organics coming of age
One of the unique domestic (Japanese) booths and companies was the Alishan Organic Center. Started 16 years ago, Alishan began as a small six tatami mat room. At the show it was promoting its line of organic products, better known in Japan as Tengu Natural Foods, as well as promoting the Center and its friendly cafe, event and gallery space, as well as an organic retail shop.

The Center is also home to Tengu Natural Foods and its Wholesale division of organic foods. The concept is very similar to the organic farm/wholesaler locations that exist within Germany, the UK and even Canada, where “farm” stays and small “organic and produce cafes” are very popular.

Russian chocolate
There were several Russian companies at the show this year. However, it was the Russian company, Korkunov, which caught the attention of people who have a “sweet tooth” for chocolate. The first thing was the wonderful containers and the fact each chocolate is individually wrapped in a foil wrapper setting it above the standard chocolate in the store.

Each of the Korkunov chocolates, of which there are more than 15 types of filled chocolate, are hand-made and therefore individually unique. They are based on original recipes incorporating Russian and other European tastes and years of chocolate making experience.

The quality and style found in the chocolate are carried over and displayed in the design and production of the elegant, high-class boxes the chocolates come in. This helps with the products brand recognition and positioning as a quality product.

A few of the 15 varieties available include: Criollo, which is a dark chocolate filled with a dark chocolate filling and almond pieces; Domingo, a milk chocolate with a light cream and puffed rice filling; Viliena another dark chocolate this time with a light cream filling and a whole nut; and Demonte, a milk chocolate with dark filling and a whole nut.

Blueberry booming
The blueberry is the second most popular fruit in Japan. Sales have increased rapidly in recent years, and blueberry jam has outsold marmalade jam since 1998, even though strawberry jam and marmalade were dominant until that time. With the power of the blueberry in Japan, one of the many Australian companies at the show was Tumbarumba Blueberry Producers.

This company grows and markets what it referred to as “the world’s finest quality fresh, frozen and processed blueberries”. An important attribute of blueberries, apart from excellent quality, is a very sweet taste. When combined with a large fruit size it makes the berries very appealing to the Japanese market. Realising the growth potential in the organic industry Tumbarumba embarked on providing naturally healthy, chemical free product with no insecticides, fungicides or other chemicals three years ago. 

Besides the standard fresh, frozen and processed blueberries, Tumbarumba also has a line of two fruit based organic treats. The first is white and dark organic chocolate-covered organic blueberries and raspberries. These are delicious chocolate covered treats where the natural sweetness of the berries blends with the chocolate. The other line is the healthy alternative to the chocolate treats, organic yoghurt covered organic blueberries & raspberries.

Jams and more
Materne-Confilux is one of the biggest European producers of jams, founded in 1888 and now located in Floreffe, in the province of Namur in Belgium. Recognized as the Beligian market leader for jams, Materne exports more than 60% of its production, to its neighbours (Germany, France, the Netherlands, Great Britain) and throughout the world to Canada, Saudi Arabia, and Japan, to name but a few.

In addition to jams, the company also has a line of other fruit based products. One of these comes from an original recipe using fruit pieces in a fruit juice combined with a small amount of sugar and binder to create a smoothie texture. 

The product is available in four fruit combined flavours which include a peach and orange combination, an orange and grapefruit combination, an pineapple and maracuja combination and finally cherry.

Another Materne product, for kids and the big kids in each of us, is Fruit Pocket™. Promoted as the fun way to eat fruit, Fruit Pocket™ is a blend of fruit, smooth and without chunks, that can be eaten when and where you want. There are four combination flavours available: Apple and peach; Apple, strawberry, and banana; Apple, pear, and toffee; and finally the new Apple, raspberry and blackcurrant flavour.

Marketing coconut juice to a wider audience
The Malaysian company, Emanate Marketing was created to capitalise on the tropical climate and an abundance of coconuts growing in Malaysia. This 13-year-old company has developed the market and promoted the use of the coconut as a refreshing juice drink while also creating other coconut products for the local and export markets.

Like many other exotic types of products, coconut juice, although refreshing, has a taste a person grows to appreciate and acquire a taste for.

One of the unique features of the company, and one of its competitive advantages in the export market, is its ‘quick-freeze’ method. This process allows the company to “seal in” the freshness of the coconut so it can be exported. Once the coconuts arrive at their destination they can be thawed. The coconut retains its freshness and is ready to drink from a very unique container, its original shell.

I LIKE HEALTHY” – Thai style
The show presented many new and exciting products, showcasing product innovation and creativity. One such company, with a Thai innovation, was the Albatross Company located in Bangkok. This company has developed a “ready-to-eat” line of rice meals named Khun Perm™. This line of rice products were created to give people who like to eat rice a hassle free method of preparing it.

The rice products, in 150grams and 300grams cans, include Thai Jasmine White Rice, Thai Jasmine Brown Rice, Thai Long Grain White Rice, Thai Glutinous Rice, and Japanese White Rice. The product names include: I LIKE HEALTHY, a full Thai meal of fried rice; I LIKE CURRY, a Thai curry fried rice; I LIKE SPICY with Thai basil fried rice and finally, I LIKE VEGGIE which is a Thai vegetable fried rice.

This product line when combined with a new line of Thai sauces makes Thai cooking convenient, easy and fast. No longer must you be a great chef to prepare and cook an excellent Thai dish. Now it is only a matter of following the instructions provided with the accompanying menu. 

These products are aimed at the young, contemporary and adventurous market segment who like oriental food and enjoy a quick meal at home, no matter where they live.

Sweets and desserts
In closing, there are several more “sweet and dessert” items that were interesting. The company Turtle Mountain is from the United States and its key product is Organic Soy Delicious™, a non-dairy dessert available in containers or as novelties. The novelties include a range of sandwich and bar products, all fitting and supporting the image of the perfect and quick healthy snack.

Other product lines include the Purely Decadent Soy Delicious™ line one of the world’s first premium non-dairy frozen dessert, all made of soy. In addition, the company also has product lines called Soy Delicious™ Fruit Sweetened and Sweet Nothings® Non-Dairy Frozen Desserts giving the consumer a fruit-sweetened treat alternative.

A new product in 2002, the company launched its Organic Soy Delicious™ Chocolate Coated Sandwiches in Vanilla and Mocha Mania. Similar to the “ice-cream” sandwich, the soy is placed between two oatmeal cookies and dipped in a rich dark chocolate coating.

The newest products are tubs of blended soy-cream. The first is Twisted Vanilla Orange, a classic childhood favourite in the United States. It has a twist of refreshing orange sorbet added to a rich and creamy old-fashioned vanilla flavour.

The other flavour is Mocha Fudge. The non-dairy dessert is flavoured with a full-bodied coffee and swirled in a thick ribbon of fudge sauce.

These treats are non-dairy, cholesterol free, no hydrogenated oils, certified organic, and vegan.