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I live in Osaka, Japan and write about food and agriculture, stocks, travel and whatever strikes my fickle fancy. This is a grab-bag of on-site photos and observations, along with my very expert opinion. Frankly, this is where I put what my editors don't use. When I clog the news drain, this is where the mess lands.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Processed products popular at Japanese trade shows

Trade shows are a good place to see novel processed seafood products, and there have been two recent shows in Japan from which to glean promising items.

The Seafood and Technology Expo Osaka was held 21-22 February. The show is held annually in both Tokyo and Osaka, with the Tokyo show, held in August, being the larger. This year’s Osaka show had about 200 booths, but was combined with the Agrifood Expo, a show featuring regional food specialties, to bring the total to 500 booths. Most attendees of this show hail from Western Japan and the focus is mostly on domestic products.

The FOODEX show held 5-7 March at Makuhari Messe near Tokyo, and open only to those in trade, is the largest food show in Asia, with 2,544 exhibiting companies from 66 countries (if you choose to call Taiwan a country) and 75,000 visitors. Japanese seafoods were in a dedicated seafood area of the domestic zone, while other seafood was scattered about in the various country pavilions of the international zone.

There are, of course, different definitions of “processed”. Fillets are processed when compared with fish in the round. But here we refer to items that are not simply raw fish. Some are cooked, some filleted and marinated; all can be directly eaten or put in the pan or on the grill without further flavoring or preparation. They reflect a desire by Japanese and overseas exporters alike to add value and increase profit, and they address two of the major reasons that Japanese are eating less fish these days: women no longer want to clean and prepare fish at home, and children don’t like to deal with fish bones.

The common point among these products is that they were receiving good buyer interest at the shows.

Hogushimi is a cooked and flaked fish product, somewhat like a drier, saltier version of flaked tuna. In Japan, lightly salted salmon hogushimi is often sold in jars for use in onigiri (rice balls) or as a topping for the rice in a bento lunch box. Salmon is a well-known hogushimi material, but Akafusa Shokuhin Corp. has newly introduced yellowtail and Arabesque greenling (Pleurogrammus azonus, or “hokke” in Japanese) hogushimi. At the Seafood & Technology Expo, they were sampling it in ochazuke (rice in hot green tea). They also recommend it in fried rice and hand-rolled sushi. Their retail pack is in 80 gram jars, while 500 gram vacuum bags are offered for the food service trade. The Kessanuma-based company trialed the products before the earthquake and tsunami, and they are now promoting them while producing them in a borrowed factory space.

Shellfish are the specialty of Aichi Foods, based in Tahara City, Aichi Prefecture and large clams with sake and green onion frozen on the half-shell are their hit product. The clam is “uchimurasakigai” (Saxidomus purpurata). To serve, the frozen halfshell can be placed directly on a grill, and will soon be bubbling hot. The company was established just two years ago, and its appearance at the Seafood and Technology expo was only its second. They also sell the meats separately from shells.

Exhibiting at both the Seafood and Technology Expo and FOODEX, Maple Foods is a Tokyo-based importer of original processed seafoods, mostly from Vietnam. Among the many products they were promoting was “Saku Saku Vietnam-fu Harumaki”(crunchy Vietnam-style spring rolls) containing shrimp, which use a web-like rice noodle wrapping.

Another popular product from the same company, “Kani Boy” is the picked meat of a Vietnamese swimming crab, filled back into the crab shell. It can also be conveniently grilled in the shell, making a good presentation. It is available in 5 sizes: 30, 40, 50, 70 or 100 grams. This product was Maple Foods’ original development (their package claims it’s patented), but it is recently being copied by others as it gains popularity.

Also at FOODEX, Asia Commerce Fisheries JSC was offering several new marinades and breading styles for pangasius: brata breaded (Western-style breading), panko breaded, lemongrass-chili marinade and BBQ marinade, in addition to plain fillets. The company is based in Dong Thap province, in the Mekong Delta region of Vietnam. It has exported to the EU for two years and is hoping to begin sales in Japan.

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