Japan's food market: more than price

Japan's food market: more than price article image

At a recent seminar I listened as representatives from Japan’s largest supermarket and Japan’s largest food service provider individually spoke about their thoughts of what prospective Australian suppliers need to think about if they are serious about approaching the Japanese market. Reliability, satisfaction, and increased value for the consumer rank as the highest values upon which channel partners will evaluate overseas suppliers. Excellent communication, openness, traceability, and willingness to provide full disclosure are essential. Absence of these core values means long-term relationships will not come to fruition. When the Japanese buyer speaks of safety, they are referring to reassurance on not only quality control but more importantly consistency. Japanese buyers have an enormous need for detail because they are accountable within the market. They take on the responsibility on behalf of the consumer and supplier. The ability for an Australian supplier to consistently meet the necessary standards and high quality provides the emotional reassurance to ensure a lasting and beneficial trading relationship. Beyond taste, buyers are now seeking environmentally sensitive and conscious suppliers. For instance, product processes resulting in a lower carbon footprint will be highly attractive, as aspects related to lower CO2 emissions, reduced wastage during production and use, along with increased recycling really hit home with the Japanese consumers. From a consumer’s perspective, safety, and value for money, and country of origin rank extremely high on the prerequisites for acceptance and reassurance. QR (Quick Response) codes are becoming more widely used on Japanese grocery items. These allow consumers to scan and receive information on the origins of a product via their mobile phone at point of sale. This is increasingly important for building credibility and transparency with Japanese consumers. In 2008, a general survey of the Japanese populace found that food safety ranks fourth overall in relation to current concerns in life, after the environment, disaster and infection. In relation to food itself, safety also ranked fourth overall after attributes of fresh, price, and country of origin. In general, more and more consumers demand a reduction in pesticides and increase in safety. From the channel partner perspective the ranking of what’s important is safety, quality, and then price. Understanding what motivates a potential channel to market partner in the Japanese market is a fundamental requisite for long term success in this most challenging market. -Steve Dowling is the director of Clientlink


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