Cheese Revolution #2 Consumers' Sound Bites
Are Japanese consumers melting for plant-based cheese?
Hello, Market Shakers!
Today, let’s dive into Japanese consumers’ feedback on plant-based cheese. The task wasn’t easy, as the category is very niche. Many had never heard of such products or seen them in stores. Awareness of the category is, however, strong in the vegan and vegetarian communities, as well as among consumers with food allergies.
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Summary of this edition
The context: consumption of conventional cheese is on the rise in Japan
Social Noise around plant-based cheese
Consumers’ Sound Bites
The context: consumption of conventional cheese is rising in Japan
Japan has a national production of cheese, mostly processed cheese and some limited artisanal production. However, cheese is a product generally perceived as foreign and importations are on the rise. In 2019, the national consumption reached record levels, with domestic production losing ground to importation for the third year in a row.
An online survey conducted by Neo Marketing in Autumn 2020 revealed that 50% of Japanese consumers eat cheese at least once a week and over 80% love cheese, showing that this dairy product is now well integrated into their diet.
With the consumption of conventional cheese on the rise, the plant-based category could have opportunities for growth, too. Consumers that are lactose intolerant or allergic to cheese, who care about ethical issues are likely to seek out alternatives.
While the search volume for Japanese keywords such as vegan cheese and plant-based cheese is terribly low and limited to major cities (Tokyo, Osaka mainly), blogs dedicated to veganism and allergies are making some noise.
Food Allergy Reporter Oka Family has built a solid community around food allergies, by purchasing products and writing reports on productions, ingredients, and of course, tastiness. They dedicated one article about Marin Food Vegan Shred and Vegetive Coconut Oil Shred.
Ziyu-Zin is another food blog dedicated to food allergies that counts one article dedicated to Beyond Tofu.
The editorial team of Gigazine, a news website based in Osaka, also shared their impressions in an article about tasting Beyond Tofu block and cube products.
House Wine, a wine-focused Japanese media, wrote a piece about vegan cheese as an alternative for wine connoisseurs who care about calories or not eating animal products. Published in 2017, the article listed a variety of brands that marry well with wines.
When we asked consumers based in various regions of Japan, many had never heard of plant-based or vegan cheese products. One person did spot a brand in their local store but had never thought of giving it a try. However, when we reached out to vegan communities, as well as consumers that follow a macrobiotic diet, we got interesting feedback.
Akari, 40s, single
Akari works for a delicatessen company. She cares about organic food and is well versed in ingredients and nutritional values so she carefully reads labels and does not pay attention to packages’ taglines. Akari is also vegan, but doesn’t like labels and feels it's time people change their mindset on dietary restrictions to embrace a wider food diversity without judging others.
Hinata, 40s, single
Twelve years ago, Hinata chose to become a vegetarian, following a macrobiotic diet plan focused on whole grains, legumes, and vegetables. Passionate about good and healthy food, she even participated in the development of vegetarian products for the Japanese market. While Hinata does eat dairy products and eggs, she also enjoys plant-based products from time to time. She particularly likes the Japanese brands Beyond Tofu and Marusan Ai. However, she thinks they lack nutritional value because they’re only made of soy milk.
Sakura, 30s, married with children
Sakura’s husband is French, so cheese is a must at home. However, imported French cheese is relatively costly and Sakura also cares about eating healthy and limiting her intake of fat and salt. Her father is a nutritionist, so she has a high awareness about meat balance. She doesn’t have any particular dietary restrictions, though is curious about vegetarian and vegan meals. She also enjoys cooking and cares about ingredient origins.
Naomi, 30s, single
Naomi is vegan and follows a very strict macrobiotic diet. She has an egg allergy and is very cautious about the food products she buys. She doesn’t purchase a food or beverage product if she isn’t sure of the ingredients list or conditions of production. Naomi cares deeply about the environment and not eating animal products. Before she changed her diet, she wasn’t a consumer of dairy products, so she doesn’t naturally feel attracted to alternative dairy products.
Saki, 30s, single
With no allergy or a particular diet, Saki isn’t particularly cutting off animal products but does pay attention to keeping a good nutritional balance. At her work, many colleagues are into yoga and healthy eating, and she feels it sometimes becomes an obsession for people. But she thinks it's good that more people around the world get concerned about the environmental impact of the food industry. Saki is price-sensitive but sometimes pays a little bit more for organic products.
See you next Tuesday!
Next week, we hit the stores and see what products are on shelves in Japan.
Made with ❤️ by GourmetPro - Food & Beverage experts in Japan.
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