Japanese meat processors dipping their toes in plant-based alternatives but no stopping meat consumption rate

By Jane Byrne contact

- Last updated on GMT

© GettyImages/Artit_Wongpradu
© GettyImages/Artit_Wongpradu

Related tags: plant-based, meat consumption, Chicken, Pork

Over the past few months, several of Japan’s largest meat processing companies have announced plans to develop plant-based alternative meat products for retail.

Other companies, including tofu manufacturers and pharmaceutical companies, are also looking to enter this sector, according to a US Department of Agriculture (USDA) report. 

However, the market for alternative meat in Japan is projected to remain small compared to overall meat consumption, noted the author of that USDA Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) research note.

“The alternative meat market gained greater attention in 2019 when Japan’s two largest meat processing companies announced plans to develop their own lineups of alternative meat products for sale, beginning in spring 2020. Planned items include plant-based hams, sausages, and gyoza - fried dumplings. As a result, industry sources report that sales of alternative meat products in Japan could double to reach US$312m annually by 2023.

“However, even under that scenario alternative meat would account for just over 1% of total meat consumption.”

The FAS bureau in Tokyo estimated the value of the Japan’s meat market, both domestic production and imports, to be around US$28.4bn.

“In 2018, Japan ranked as the number one overseas market for US beef and US pork valued at a combined US$3.7bn.”

Upward trend in meat consumption

Indeed, consumption of animal protein in Japan continues to trend upward, found the report.

Per capita consumption of chicken and pork in the Asian country has risen year over year as consumption of traditional protein sources like fish and shellfish falls due to lower supplies and high prices.

And, following Japan’s implementation of trade agreements with major meat exporting countries such as the US, Australia, Canada, and the EU, imported meat is likely to become even more accessible to Japanese consumers, said FAS Tokyo.

Meat consumption trends in Japan USDA FAS Tokyo
Meat consumption trends Japan © USDA FAS Tokyo update

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