According to the Japan Retailers Association, an increasing supply of dried, cured and smoked meat from Europe is whetting consumers’ appetites and fuelling additional demand, for both the foodservice and home market segments. While some Japanese companies produce Parma-style ham, their limited capacity and the demand for historically authentic products among Japan’s famously demanding consumers is providing an opening for European firms.
“We are seeing more imports of Parma ham, salami and cured bacon from Italy, France and Spain,” said a spokesperson for the association. “Consumers are choosing these meat products and cheese to enjoy with wine, which is seeing a boom in Japan, and are now also using Parma ham as an ingredient in a wider range of dishes, such as pizza.”
The rise of dedicated speciality meat corners in supermarkets, offering information and tasting, as well as the gifting of dried meat products for special occasions are creating discerning consumers who care about quality and provenance.
Cheer for chorizo
Erwann Chabot, international director of Spanish cured meat company Argal, told GlobalMeatNews that Japanese consumers’ knowledge about its black and white pigmeat products is impressive. The firm’s chorizo is stocked in Spanish and high-end Japanese bars, but it expects growth as the number of such eateries buying its products is on the rise.
Spanish firm Arturo Sánchez’s Iberian cured ham is also on the menu of high-end restaurants in Japan and the shelves of upmarket supermarkets, but the company is adapting its offerings to boost Japanese sales. In Europe, the firm sells pre-sliced ham, shoulder and cold cuts in 80g and 100g packs but, for Japan, it has produced what it calls ‘smart boxes’ – two packs each of 25g. These packs are being presented as snack options for the foodservice industry for picnics and hotel room welcome baskets.
Clara Garcia, export manager for Arturo Sánchez, said the move is designed to encourage potential customers to try the product with less risk.
The firm has also developed luxury packaging – Japanese consumers like elaborate packaging for food items – for gift sets and retailers, as well as a special pack featuring three of its vintage hams to show how the product evolves from year to year. “Japanese consumers are very sophisticated and they like to have a deep knowledge about what they are buying, so we explain our traditional and handcraft production,” Garcia added.
Meanwhile, Søren Jensen, export manager for Denmark cold cut leader Atria Scandinavia, is hoping that the company’s organic salami and pepperoni will entice Japanese consumers to buy its 100g pack, which has been reduced from the European standard of 200g for the Japanese market, he told GlobalMeatNews.