Cheese Revolution #3: Shelf Sweep
What plant-based cheese products are available in Japan?
Hello, Market Shakers!
Time to hit the stores and see what’s on refrigerated shelves in Japan. For consumers looking for variety, the challenge is real even today.
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Summary of this edition
You need to look hard to find plant-based cheese in Japan.
A few years ago, finding dairy-free cheese in a Japanese store was more than challenging: it was impossible. Aside from a handful of specialized organic stores in major cities that carried one or two expensive imported vegan cheese products, there was absolutely no option on the market. But that isn’t surprising if you consider that cheese is relatively recent in the Japanese diet. The need for alternatives to cater to the needs of consumers with food allergies or ethical concerns was lesser than in other regions. The category is still very niche —social noise is revealing, when the US edition of Women Health compared 80 brands available in the country, Japanese websites list their five, eight, and ten top products, where we can find basically the same brands. However, the category has been picking up some steam since 2020 and 2021. Several manufacturers launched new products on the market hoping to grow the category.
My Vegan Shred - Marin Food
Marin Food first launched My Vegan Shred in August 2016. However, in light of the 2019 food labeling standard revision, the food manufacturer reworked its recipe to take out almonds from the raw ingredient list. Relaunched in April 2020, My Vegan Shred is a product free of 28 potential allergens and contains no animal ingredients. This plant-based cheese is suitable for people with food allergies or dietary restrictions.
200 gr - about 340 JPY
My Vegan Shred isn’t too hard to find, though consumers may need to shop at more than one store to find a pack as not all retailers have it on shelves.
Vegetive’s Coconut Oil Shred
In 2020, major Japanese retailer Aeon’s private label Top Valu launched and expanded Vegetive, its line-up of plant-based products. Although not always entirely plant-based (some products bear the mention “may contain traces of animal ingredients.”), the line-up offers solid options for consumers with dietary restrictions. With soy-based products, Aeon bet on reasonably priced substitutes to convince mainstream consumers.
The retailer launched its coconut oil-based shredded cheese, manufactured by Marin Food, in March 2020. As is often the case, vegan consumers reached out to Aeon consumer services and confirmed the product is suitable for vegetarian and vegan consumers.
When the 60 years old tofu manufacturer Sagamiya launched its Beyond Tofu brand in 2018, The media frenzy over what was nicknamed the “miracle protein” reached even English outlets. For good reasons, Sagamiya announced revolutionary tofu, no less, based on fermented low-fat soy milk and vegetable oil.
After three years of work, we finally developed a miracle tofu. A tofu that goes beyond tofu, close to cheese, and unlike anything you have ever tasted before. Beyond Tofu’s strong point is a great flavor leaving wanting for more and it’s 100% plant-based. You can grate, shred, or melt Beyond Tofu with pasta, pizza, or lasagna.
The world of tofu will drastically change from this point forward. The possibilities are endless. The day Beyond Tofu goes on sales will be the day we revolutionize tofu.
Junji Torigoe, President, Sagamiya Foods
Launch of Beyond Tofu a low-fat soymilk and fermentation technology, Torigoe Sagamiya Foods President talks about "Miracle Tofu" (in Japanese)
At the time, Sagamiya launched two products, block, and cube types, with ambitious plans to expand to cream cheese, camembert, and shredded cheese. In 2020, the cube version reappeared as a vegan cheese flavored with olive oil and herb, while the shredded cheese made its debut.
Tonyu Shredded and Slice by Marunsan Ai
Major Japanese soy milk manufacturer, Marusan Ai considers itself as a soy-based product pioneer. Noting the increasing awareness of plant-based protein in recent years, the company launched a soy-based shredded cheese in 2020. The choice of a shredded product isn’t trivial. According to market research company Fuji Keizai, the market of shredded cheese (20% of market share) is expanding in Japan. Sensing a crossing path between the interest of consumers for soy-based products and cheese, Marusan Ai started its plant-based cheese line up with this obvious choice.
Following the success of their shredded type, Marusan Ai released a sliced type in March 2021.
Some fermented tofu products can, in some aspects, resemble blocks of cheese. While not all of them are advertised as cheese-like products, we found several brands that could fall into this category.
Cheese Like Miso-marinated Tofu
Manufactured by Kusumura, a tofu shop established in 1914, and launched in April 2020, The "Cheese-like Miso-marinated Tofu" is close to cream cheese, with a rich flavor.
Manufactured by Yoshizumi Tofu, Toubi Plain is a marinated tofu matured in miso paste. The end product offers a mellow texture and sophisticated flavor. The production started in the summer of 2016.
A handful of foreign plant-based cheese brands are available in Japan. Their availability is limited to a few international supermarkets and e-commerce.
Mozzarisella (Bio c'Bon)
Mozzarisella is a plant-based line-up of vegan cheese made by Italian family-owned company Frescolat, from germinated rice. It is available in Japan at organic supermarket chain Bio c’Bon stores.
J-Oil Mills, a leading Japanese vegetable oil company tied up with Upfield, owner of the popular brand Violife. The company will start selling Violife cheese products for home and commercial use this autumn.
See you next Tuesday!
Next week, we will share some professional insights on the plant-based cheese market.
Made with ❤️ by GourmetPro - Food & Beverage experts in Japan.
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