A selection of just a few of the hundreds of products launched every month in Japan. Those described here include novelty chocolate and candy, ices, and an onion soup flavor corn snack. The functional foods market began in Japan with a constant flow of new ideas, such as natto rich in vitamin K for strong bones, margarine fortified with DHA from Norwegian salmon and sea salt from deep below the surface.

Caramel yogurt and sweet potato custard are among the new dairy products, while the fashion in frozen ready meals is for very small portions in multi-compartment trays. One or two trays can be split off from the rest and heated in the microwave oven, ideal for packed lunch. The current fashion for hot and spicy food continues with cup noodles and in dressings.

Confectionery, Ices and Snack Foods
Meiji Seika Kaisha is a key player in chocolate manufacturer in Japan. Meiji Takenoko Sato Cranberry [bamboo shoots village] is a new variety in this popular chocolate snack shaped like bamboo shoots. A tasty combination of cranberry powder, chocolate and cookies. Cranberries are currently popular in Japan for their health benefits [no claims are made on the product]. New pack design for the fall and winter season. 68g box Y150, 80 per case.

Kanebo Foods is a medium-size confectionery company, part of the Kanebo Group which produces cosmetics and fashion wear. Kanebo Foods has just launched Piroronpa, novelty powder candy in two flavors – melon, grape. The consumer mixes the powder with water to produce long strings of two-color jelly candy with a striped pattern. 33g bag Y100, 80 per case.

Market leader in ices, Meiji Milk Products has launched a new variety in the Meiji Bulgaria Yogurt Dessert series of ice cream containing yogurt [not frozen yogurt]. The new flavor assortment is Kyoho and Plain [Kyoho are large black Japanese grapes]. This is a multi-pack of 2 flavors of ice cream and ice milk [ice cream with 3% minimum milk fat]. The grape flavor is yogurt flavor ice with grape pulp sauce for a tangy taste. The plain is rich and creamy. The pack contains 6 x 50ml bars on sticks Y380, 6 per case.

Top dairy company Snow Brand Milk Products has the right to use the Hershey brand on some products, including ices. Snow Brand has now launched Hershey’s Choco Nuts Monaka All Black [monaka is a wafer]. This lactic ice wafer [an ice with no minimum milk fat content] has the rich flavors of Hershey’s chocolate and nuts. It has a mouthfeel like eating bar chocolate. 100ml wafer in a pillow pack Y100, 20 per case. This is a product relaunch with a new pack design; it is essential to continuously relaunch products in Japan to stimulate sales.

House Foods is among the key players in snack foods. House Tongari Corn – Onion Gratin Soup is a new flavor in this long-standing puffed corn snack series. Tongari means a cone-shaped pointed hat, which is the shape of this snack. This series was first launched in 1978 and has remained popular ever since. The snack is fried in vegetable oil with a 30% safflower oil content. This new flavor has a base of consomme soup flavor with sauteed onions plus garlic toast and cheese flavoring. 80g hexagonal box Y180, 20 per case.

Dairy Products
Medium size dairy company Ohayo Nyugyo has launched Caramel Yogurt. This yogurt is flavored with caramel, a popular flavor for ice cream and confectionery and very much in fashion at present. It is a slightly sweet yogurt with the characteristic flavor of caramel liked by adults and children. It has the gentle acidity of yogurt liked by young people. Non-fat milk solids 8.5%, milk fat 2.0%. 100g cup Y80, 2 x 100g cups Y140, 3 x 100g Y200.

Ohayo Nyugyo has also launched Oimono Yaki Purin [sweet potato baked custard]. This genuine baked custard dessert is made with quality sweet potato grown in Tokushima prefecture. It has the mild sweetness of sweet potato and is baked to an attractive brown color. 105g cup Y120.

Dressings – Oriental Style
Ajinomoto, famous for monosodium glutamate is also a major manufacturer of dressings. Ajinomoto Kakedare Kobo [seasoning sauce workshop] is a series of new Asian-style sauces for the food service industry in four varieties. Pirikara Kochu-jang-dare is a Korean-style spicy sauce based on fermented bean paste with chili [kochu-jang] and containing Japanese miso and sesame paste. Pirikara Shoyu-dare is also Korean-style sauce made with yakunenjo [spicy Korean sauce], garlic, ginger, sesame oil and ground sesame. Spice Shoyu-dare is Javanese satay sauce with honey and apple juice. Ethnic Amazu-dare [sweet vinegar] is based on Thai-style fish sauce with ginger, honey and lemon juice. These sauces are suitable for use in bars, pubs, grill restaurants and company canteens. One liter bottle, 6 per case. No price quoted.

Functional Foods and Health Foods
Asahi Fresher (part of the Mitsukan Group) has developed Kin-no Tsubu Hone Genki Natto [bone health natto]. This natto [soybeans fermented with Bacillus natto] product received FOSHU approval earlier this year [see JAPANSCAN July 2000 page 27]. The permitted claim is ‘this natto is rich in vitamin K2 as a result of the activity of the natto bacteria (Bacillus subtilis type OUV23481). This product containing vitamin K2 is an active means to promote the formation of calcium-binding bone protein (osteocalcin)’. This natto has 1.5 times more vitamin K content than regular natto. 3 x 50g portions per box Y158. A version made from organic soybeans is launched at the same time, 3 x 59g portions Y168.

Soken KK has launched a functional margarine called Asaha DHA [asaha means morning]. This margarine is made with safflower oil and salmon oil as the main ingredients. It is rich in DHA [docosahexaenoic acid] and EPA [eicosapentaenoic acid]. Safflower oil, rich in oleic acid is the basis of this margarine. To this is added 12.5% salmon oil extracted from salmon from Norway. A 10g portion (enough for 1-2 slices of bread) supplies 100mg DHA and 90mg EPA, as much as is contained in 15g of sardines. Packed in a handy tube, no need for a knife. 120g Y250.

Pola Foods, part of the Pola Group which is known for cosmetics, developed Balance Up, a balanced nutritional cookie bar providing a healthy meal substitute for people in a hurry. Now a new variety is launched – pumpkin. This product contains pumpkin seeds, 10 vitamins (A, B1, B2, B6, B12, D, E, folic acid, niacin, pantothenic acid) plus calcium, iron and dietary fiber. An easy way to compensate for the deficiency in the diet. Protein content 9%. 6 cookies per stick pack Y100 (plus tax).

Nichifuri Shokuhin is launching Sesame Salt [translation]. This healthy salt is obtained from deep sea water. There has been recent demand for water from deep below the surface of the sea as a health drink, now salt from this water is being used. This salt is rich in all types of minerals in a balanced ratio. It is mixed with toasted sesame seeds, which are also known for their health benefits. Small packs ideal for lunch boxes. 10 x 3g sachets Y110, 60 per case.

Asahi Beer Yakuhin is the drugs division of Asahi Breweries. Now relaunching Actio Heme Iron, a nutritional supplement in the Actio brand range. The main changes are that the bioavailablity of the iron has been increased and the price reduced. This preparation also contains vitamin B12 and folic acid to improve iron absorption and metabolism. Two tablets supply the daily requirement of these vitamins. Each tablet (440mg) contains 2mg heme iron, 2.5 micrograms vitamin B12 and 200 micrograms folic acid. 60 tablets per jar Y1280 (was Y1500).

Ready Meals and Cup Noodles
Nichirei, market leader in frozen foods is launching Irodori Salad Chicken [colorful chicken and salad]. This frozen ready meal is packed in individual paper cups; it is designed for use in packed lunches for junior and senior high school students and college students. Each paper cup is filled with tender chicken plus red and yellow peppers and green soybeans. The topping is sesame mayonnaise. 4 x 25g cups in a pillow pack Y260. Another variety in this series packed in paper cups contains kidney beans and sweet corn fried in butter with bacon. 4 x 20g cups Y240.

Maruzen Shokuhin Kogyo’sTableland Renji Chubo Tori Ninniku [microwave kitchen chicken in garlic] is a ready meal for cooking in the microwave oven. It is packed in a microwavable plastics laminate container. It contains high quality chicken thigh with skin and whole cloves of garlic from China, cooked with coarse ground black pepper, salt and wine. A snack to provide stamina. 80g Y250, 24 per case, ambient storage life 6 months.

Sugakiya Shokuhin is a key player in the long-life cup noodles market. This type of cup noodle contains boiled noodles heat-sterilized in a retort pouch in place of dried instant noodles. This produces better flavor and texture. Sugakiya Taiwan Ramen Pirikara Jan [hot and spicy with chili] is now relaunched. The boiled noodles in a retort pouch are the non-fried type; now the noodle content has been increased. The noodles are made with selected wheat flour to provide good elasticity and a smooth mouthfeel. They taste like fresh noodles. The hot and spicy soup is made with a generous content of concentrated chicken stock and is flavored with tobanjan [fermented bean paste with chili]. The garnish includes Chinese chives, ground meat, roast garlic and chili. No weight quoted Y175, 24 per case

Vegetable Oils
Honen Corp. is one of the top edible oils companies in Japan. Honen’s Ichiban Shibori Canola Oil [virgin canola (rapeseed) oil] is the oil from the first pressing of quality rapeseed. A pale oil with no off-flavors. 400g PET bottle Y300, 20 per case. Honen estimates that it has around 5% share of the retail vegetable oil market worth Y93.4 billion.