Alt-Seafood Splash #6 - OMNITuna Launches in Japan
An exclusive interview with OmniFoods about how they're seeking to capture an ocean of opportunity in Japan with their plant-based seafood.
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Hello Market Shakers! We interviewed OmniFoods about the launch of their plant-based tuna in Japan. This is the exclusive report on one of the biggest alt-seafood launches in Japan to date.
To bring you deeper insights into the launch of OMNITuna in Japan, we also have commentary from OmniFoods exclusive importer and distributor, Alishan, Pty. Ltd. And, a special announcement about their latest venture. Dive in to find out more!
Today’s post by sub-headings:
Ask your questions to OmniFoods
Consumer response to OMNITuna
OmniFoods banking on health and convenience to hook Japanese consumers on alt-seafood
OmniFood on their path for promoting their products in Japan
Alt-seafood products must adapt to local tastes
Alishan, Pty. Ltd on the launch of OMNITuna in Japan
Will more OmniSeafood be heading to Japan?
OmniFoods on the future of alt-seafood in Japan
OmniFoods is a global leading plant-based food company under Green Monday. Headquartered in Hong Kong, Green Monday was founded in 2012. The company has pioneered the launch of a large-scale plant-based movement in Asia by advocating a flexitarian lifestyle. OmniFoods has a portfolio of plant-based meats and seafood which they sell globally. The first product of the brand, OmniPork (known as OmniMeat in Japan) was launched in 2018 and it has become a massive hit with consumers worldwide. Inspired to help save our marine ecosystems, they released a plant-based seafood line, OmniSeafood, at first in Hong Kong (2021).
Natsumi Amano, in charge of business development for Green Monday and OmniFoods in Japan, sat down to tell us all there is to know about the OmniSeafood series.
Asia accounts for approximately 73% of all seafood consumed in the world. But most of the plant-based protein alternatives are still centered around meat. There are just a few alt-seafoods options to choose from. We saw a clear niche in the space and, as we’re an Asia-born brand, it made sense to expand our range to seafood. After years of R&D and dedication, we unveiled the OmniSeafood series on World Ocean Day (June 8th) in 2021.
The complete lineup includes plant-based tuna, fish fillets, a fish burger and fish fingers.
To dip their toe in the water in Japan, OmniFoods launched their plant-based tuna in June 2022. One month in, how have consumers responded?
Ask your questions to OmniFoods
Just for Market Shake, OmniFoods will answer questions from our readers until Monday, July 11th.
Hit “reply” in your email and send us any questions you have for OmniFoods*. Premium subscribers can also reply in the comments sections.
We’ll publish a selection of the questions and answers later this month.
*For any business inquiries contact email: firstname.lastname@example.org
You can also follow OmniFoods on social media (@omnifoods.jp) to get the latest on their products in Japan.
Consumers responded with curiosity and excitement to the launch of OMNITuna
OmniFoods carried out a tasting in a supermarket located in Tokyo on the launch day. A trend in feedback from consumers focussed on three aspects:
Consumers were surprised by the fidelity of the product's taste compared to real canned tuna. Compared to other domestically available alt-tuna products, most found that OMNITuna was the closest to the “real thing”.
Despite meat alternatives becoming more available, most consumers had never seen alt-seafood products. Our product looked “new” in their eyes and attracted curious and trend-conscious consumers.
Unlike conventional meat and seafood, and plant-based meat, you can store OMNITuna at room temperature, and it lasts 2 years from the point of manufacture. Some customers bought a few cans to stock for emergencies like natural disasters.
The feedback to OmniFoods highlights the importance of developing a tasty, functional product. This is the basic requirement to get Japanese consumers to try a new product. For more on what Japanese consumers want, check out our consumer interviews on alt-seafood.
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OmniFoods banks on the health and convenience of alt-seafood to hook Japanese consumers
Japan and East Asian markets differ from the west in that altruistic appeals, such as concerns for animal welfare and environmental issues, only reach a limited demographic. It’s important to communicate these aspects through our products. But we hook consumers by firstly promoting benefits such as health and convenience. When it comes to health, Japanese consumers have some of the highest standards. Empirically speaking, our mercury-free appeal seems to be particularly well-accepted for families with pregnant women and/or young children.
OmniFoods has charted a clear path for promoting their products in Japan
OmniFoods recognizes that the alt-seafood market in Japan is nascent. Their plans for growth reflect this.
In short-to-mid-term, we are targeting international travellers, expats, vegetarians and vegans, and sustainability-conscious consumers. They tend to have a lower price elasticity for products like alt-seafood which is generally considered premium.
As the market matures and the price point gets appealing to the mainstream consumers, I think health and convenience will play a major role in promoting alt-seafood in Japan.
When it comes to convenience, OmniFoods knows that this will only increase as an appeal point for conventional and alt-seafoods.
It’s evident from the Government-backed initiative of the “Fast fish” project that Japanese consumers demand easy-to-prepare products. I believe the difficult-to-handle nature of conventional seafood puts alternative seafood at an enormous advantage.
Alt-seafood products must adapt to local tastes
Yet, even convenient products won’t make a ripple in Japan’s consumer ocean unless they taste great. OmniFoods was conscious of this when preparing to launch OMNITuna in Japan.
OMNITuna is a healthy alternative to regular canned tuna. It is easy to serve in a salad and sandwich. OMNITuna is made from a unique blend of soy and pre-seasoned with salt and algal oil which adds a “fishy” flavour. It is also nutritionally similar to fish. Canola oil adds 400mg of Omega-3 Fatty acid ALA (α-Alpha-linolenic acid), like regular canned tuna.
A key aspect of taking your product to Japan is adapting it to suit the Japanese palette. Flavours of dishes in Japan tend to be subtle.
Our OMNITuna available in Japan has been formulated by our R&D team in Canada to abide by the local regulations. It has also been adapted to fit the local taste profile which tends to favour less salty and less fatty tastes.
According to the exclusive importer and distributor of OMNITuna in Japan, Alishan Pty. Ltd., the product has several appealing aspects in addition to taste.
“We’re pleased with the response we’re seeing to the product” - Jack Bayles, CEO of Alishan Pty. Ltd.
We sat down to hear from Jack Bayles, CEO of Alishan Pty. Ltd., the exclusive importer and distributor of OMNITuna in Japan.
The product was launched in Japan in June and we’re pleased with the response we’re seeing. Our customers are giving us good feedback. They’re moving good numbers of OMNITuna. Our sales guys are also seeing interest in the product from stores and food services. We got an immediate positive response from retail and smaller restaurant groups. As the product is so “new” getting buy-in from larger restaurant groups is till a work in progress.
The positive response to OMNITuna is, for Alishan, an outcome of growing awareness of plant-based diets in Japan.
When OmniFoods first approached us about the launch of the OMNITuna product, I wasn’t certain how the market in Japan would respond to a canned tuna alternative. Canned tuna isn’t used as diversely as it is in the U.S. for example. It’s not being incorporated into various recipes such as casseroles in Japan.
There are several things going for OMNITuna though. Firstly, I think awareness of plant-based products and alternatives are greater now than they were two years ago. The market is much more developed compared to when we launched OMNIMeat. Consumers are more open to trying these products. The fact that OMNITuna is a single serving can is a blessing also. It’s easy to open, eat and bin the can in one sitting.
Finally, it’s a cleaner label than most plant-based meat. The ingredients are easily understood food building blocks, including soy, canola, carrot juice, yeast. As an importer, this is helpful because one of the challenges we face for plant-based products is that they use a lot of ingredients that the authorities in Japan don’t permit. Fortunately, we have a good relationship with OmniFoods and work closely together on this when importing their products.
With the success so far of OMNITuna, we asked Jack where he sees the market for alt-seafood heading in Japan.
In short, it will take time for the alt-seafood market to develop in Japan. Consumers are not as ecologically sensitive as western consumers are. It’s hard to push seafood alternatives from this angle. Also, the quality of seafood casually consumed by Japanese consumers is, on average, so much higher than the rest of the world. For alternatives like fillets, this is a challenge that makers need to take seriously.
I think the advantage that Japan has is consumers here are more willing to try new products compared to other parts of Asia. So new product launches will always attract initial interest. We also shouldn’t ignore the trend of diversification of diets in Japan like veganism, flexitarianism, vegetarianism, etcetera. There are opportunities to begin growing the market for alt-seafoods.
With this in mind, Jack is focussing on exploring the potential for OMNITuna in Japan.
We’re incorporating alt-tuna in a menu item in Alishan Cafe. We tested the product and developed a really great vegan tuna sandwich with mayonnaise and some pineapple. It’s launching soon.
Because of the interest in OMNITuna so far, we’re also trying to establish early growth of the alt-seafood market in Japan. We’ll be holding a 50% off sale on the product for retailers in the second week of July to further promote engagement. This offer will be for anyone, not only existing accounts. We want to hook new and curious customers who will help promote the product.
Announcement - Alishan Park Opens July 15th
Alishan is opening a new cafe and 5-story event space, Alishan Park, in Tokyo on July 15th, 2022.
The cafe is directly facing Yoyogi Park and will originally open from 07:30 - 18:00. It will offer all your organic and vegetarian favourites from Alishan Cafe in Saitama, with the addition of some very exciting breakfast options. There will also be a selection of alcoholic and non-alcoholic craft beers and ciders.
For the latest updates, follow Alishan Park on social media.
The positive response to OMNITuna shows potential for alternative seafood in Japan. It’s certainly great news for OmniFood whose vision is to expand their alt-seafood offering further in Japan.
Will more Omni Seafood be heading to Japan?
The OmniSeafood Series is more than just OMNITuna. Fish filets and more are on the menu for Japan in the future.
We are working on reformulating other products in the OmniSeafood series to bring to Japan.
But that’s not all. OmniFoods has used collaborations to promote its products in other
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