Caring Confectionery #3: Shelf Sweep

GourmetPro's team takes a look at plant-based confectionery products available in Japan.

Hello, Market Shakers!

Time to hit the stores and look at products we can find in Japan and what’s missing from store shelves! 

Our Consumers’ Sound Bites told us all: traditional sweets aside, innovative plant-based confectionery products are scarce in Japan. 

Some foreign products are available and have done relatively well, but they are mostly premium and niche. Imports don’t dominate the market, and there’s no local push to give a try to plant-based brands. There are many small local players, with limited distribution, particularly for cookies and biscuits. 


Before we jump into today’s issue…

At GourmetPro we are all very excited to invite you to our first-ever (free!) webinar on the ins and outs of Japanese F&B distribution. Join us on June 24th, 6 pm to learn firsthand all about Japan's F&B distribution from local experts.

Our presenter Vincent Nicol will start off with a presentation of the distribution landscape in Japan, followed by an insightful panel discussion with Donald Roxburgh, founder of Wholesum Japan,  and Pascal Gerbert-Gaillard, former Asia Director of Bio c'Bon, now Japan Managing director of UnaBiz.

Reserve your spot

We look forward to e-seeing you there!


Summary of this edition 

  • Where can consumers find plant-based confectionery?

  • Caring chocolate

  • Caring candies

  • Caring snacks and cookies 

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Where can consumers find plant-based confectionery?

We visited many stores in the greater Tokyo area and found that finding plant-based products in the snack sections was difficult. We asked staff, but they didn’t understand or knew of any products available on shelf. 

Nonetheless, we did find a few brands available in the following stores. 

Retail stores

  • GMS

    • Aeon

  • International upscale supermarkets

    • Kaldi, Caferrant, Jupiter, Bio C’Bon, Seijo Ishi, National Azabu

  • Convenience stores

    • 7Eleven, Natural Lawson 

  • Department stores (pop-up store)

    • Marui, Isetan, Mitsukoshi

  • Variety stores

    • Tokyu Hands

Other supermarkets with shelves dedicated to allergy-free products are likely to offer dairy-free chocolate. But in the otherwise regular confectionery section, consumers are unlikely to find plant-based or vegan products. 

E-commerce 

At this point, e-commerce is the best option for consumers in Japan looking for a variety of plant-based chocolate, candies, and snacks. E-commerce websites offer a broad range of imported products. The American platform iHerb has an extensive choice of products in all three categories. 

  • iHerb

  • Amazon

  • Rakuten

  • Companies’ online stores

  • Small specialized online stores  

While not precisely covered by our research, the Japanese website Cake has a small vegan cake section. Since the pandemic started, they have explosive growth, so the addition of a small plant-based section is interesting to observe. 

Caring chocolate

Dairy-free chocolate seems to be the most developed category of plant-based confectionery in Japan at the moment. You can find premium chocolate stores and products on the market, emphasizing fair trade and high cacao quality. Some brands will have a small to a wide choice of dairy-free chocolate products. 

Japanese brands and manufacturers

Nikkoh

Since 2018, OEM food manufacturer Nikkoh offers a chocolate bar that does not contain 28 potential allergens. The product is considered vegan. 

Top Valu

In October 2019, major retailer Aeon launched a dairy-free chocolate bar under its Top Valu private brand in a new line-up aimed at consumers with food allergies.

Almaterra

Founded in 2002, Almaterra imports and distributes organic products, agave syrup being their primary business. However, they sell organic chocolate—their brand and imported brands, too. 

They do not advertise their products as plant-based or vegan. But they do not contain animal ingredients. Some of their products are labeled as allergy-free, while others are indicated as dairy-free. 

People Tree

The company People Tree is original a fair trade apparel company that goes back to the 90s, with roots in Japan and the United Kingdom. For over 20 years, the company has been selling chocolate made of fair trade ingredients and certified Fair Trade by the World Fair Trade Organization. People’s Tree chocolates are solely available in Winter because they are made from 100% cocoa butter, an ingredient that does not fair well in hot climates. 

They have a line-up of dark chocolate called “Veggie” (ベジ) made with plant-based milk and nuts instead of dairy ingredients. They’re not labeled as vegan or plant-based. 

True Food & Design

Launched by a successful crowdfunding campaign on Makuake, True Food & Design is a start-up founded in August 2019 to address the market’s lack of natural and functional food.

True Food & Design founder Hisae Mukuno believes that she can “overturn the conventional wisdom that good food is bad for you, and healthy food is not good for you.”

One of their first product launches is a bar of plant-based chocolate made with coconut milk. In summer 2020, their True Food Chocolate was temporarily available at a b8ta pop-up store in the Marui department store in Shinjuku (Tokyo) 

Gracia Del Sol

Contrary to what its name leads to believe, Gracia Del Sol is a Japanese brand manufactured in Peru and launched by the wholesaler Sokensha in October 2019. Their line-up is both vegan and organic. 

Foreign brands available in Japan

We could spot quite a few imported brands on the Japanese market, starting with the Australian brand Pana Chocolate. 

Pana Chocolate

The brand Pana Organic was launched in 2012 in Australia. Their products meet the standards of the JAS organic certification in Japan and are dairy, soy, and gluten-free. Their importer is Maybell Japan, founded in 2017, and imports Pana Chocolate since May 2018

EcoFinia

EcoFinia is a German company that developed several brands of high-quality chocolate available globally. Their premium organic vegan brands, Vivani, and iChoc are available in Japan in stores and e-commerce websites.

Tom & Luke

The New Zealand brand Tom & Luke has been available in Japan since 2019. Consumers can find their products on their Japanese online store and upscale supermarket Seijo Ishi and Natural Lawson. In January 2021, the Japanese retail group Seven & I Holdings announced Tom & Luke products would gradually hit the shelves in 7eleven stores of Hokkaido, Tohoku, Kanto, and Tokai.

Dardenne

Dardenne has a long history of developing chocolate products for consumers with food allergies and intolerance. The French chocolate manufacturer offers a wide range of vegan chocolate, and their products are sold in Japan. In October 2018, they released a strawberry flavored vegan chocolate named Pink as strawberry is a popular flavor with Japanese consumers. The brand is imported by Almaterra, too. 

Caring candies

If you feel the choice of plant-based chocolate was limited, wait till you see the candy section! We noted two foreign brands relatively easy to find, the German Katjes and the American Jelly Belly. We did not find candy or gummy candy brands offering plant-based or vegan products. 

Katjes

Jelly Belly 

We could spot vegan Jelly Belly products in Kaldi stores. 

Caring cookies

Foreign brands and manufacturers

Kookie Kat

Originated from Bulgaria, Kookie Kat is a free-from organic cookie brand developed by Roobar, an innovative organic product manufacturer. The brand landed in Japan in the fall of 2018 and is available at Lawson convenience stores and Seijo Ishi.

Japanese brands and manufacturers

Biokura 

Founded in 1998, Biokura is an organic food manufacturer subsidiary of the Arsoa Keio Group. In the 2000s, they developed macrobiotic food products, a diet based on ideas about types of food drawn from Zen Buddhism. 

In 2007, they launched a vegan cake series that reached 10,000 cakes sold for the year 2020. In June 2021, they announced the launch of a new vegan rare cheesecake. 

Biokura’s vegan cake series is supported by consumers interested in food health, macrobiotic, and veganism. Their products are also popular with consumers with dietary restrictions for health reasons.

Surveys show there are many people who think that they have to endure the taste of vegan food. As a company, we have been looking for ways to address this issue. Therefore, we shifted our development concept from "vegan" to "delicious and vegan.” By developing products equally "delicious" for both vegans and non-vegans, we want to help realize Biokura's wish of "barrier-free food".

Biokura also has a cookie series since 2009, some of which do not contain animal ingredients. 

Seijo Ishi’s Desica brand

Seijo Ishi is a premium supermarket chain operating in the Kanto, Chubu, and Kinki regions. Their store sells high-quality products and many imported food products. The chain is a subsidiary of the convenience store chain Lawson since 2014.

In 2016, Seijo Ishi launched their brand Desica. Their macrobiotic cookies (Quinoa and Fig & Apricot) do not contain animal ingredients. 

2Foods

Founded in 2015, TWO is a Japanese tech start-up focused on health and wellbeing services and products. In April 2021, they launched their brand 2Foods, a healthy junk food concept with nutritious plant-based offerings. Their products are available online and at three retail outlets in Tokyo. They offer plant-based donuts and sweets. 

8ablish

Founded in 2000, 8ablish is a small vegan sweet company. Their products do not contain animal ingredients such as eggs, butter, or milk, refined white sugar, and additives. About 80% of their sweets are also gluten-free, with no wheat, barley, rye, or oats. The company tries as much as possible to use organic ingredients. Their products are sold on their online website

Vegan Sweets Courier

Founded in 2007, Vegan Sweets Courier is a gluten-free and plant-based sweet manufacturer. Their products are sold on their online website

Ain Soph

Ain Soph is a vegan restaurant group in Tokyo and Kyoto operating since 2009.  They sell plant-based sweets on their online store

Wood Moon

Former macrobiotic Chef with an interest in food allergies, Noriko Tsukimori, opened Wood Moon, a small sweet store, in Tokyo in 2007. Today, she operates from a small manufacturing kitchen and sells her products online and limitedly at three retail points in Shimane, Yamaguchi, and Osaka. 

Foreign brands available in the market

Yukybio

Italian organic brand, Yukibio is available online and at National Azabu, an international store located in Tokyo. Yukibio offers vegan cookies and crackers. 

Orgran

Orgran is an Australian free-from food manufacturer. Their products are available at Azabu National. 

That’s all, folks!

Put your shopping cart down. Next week, we bring a treat to your table. Sho Yoshida, brand manager of plant-based sweet series Las Olas, shared his journey to establish healthy, organic, vegan sweets in Japan and his insights on the Japanese market. 


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