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Image: The Asahi Shimbun

Japan warms to frozen foods as pandemic keeps many at home

Click on the flag for more information about Japan JAPAN
Tuesday, September 27, 2022, 06:50 (GMT + 9)

Companies are racing to capitalize on a boom in frozen food products as the novel coronavirus pandemic has boosted demand for food with a long shelf life.

The Japan Frozen Food Association has been keeping records on domestic frozen food production and consumption since 1981. It found the production value of consumer items rose by 5.2 percent year on year to 391.9 billion yen ($2.83 billion) in 2021, hitting a record high for the second straight year. 

“The pandemic-induced boom (in frozen foods) will likely subside (following price hikes), but many consumers will continue to buy them because they taste good,” said an association official.

The latest data also showed a rise in production was particularly steep for frozen gyoza dumplings and meatballs.

  • Frozen foods have been popular, mainly among double-income households, for their convenience.
  • The items have gained renewed attention under the pandemic because they can be stored for long periods.
  • Advancements in production technology have also helped increase the variety of frozen foods.

Companies began raising prices of their food products, including frozen items, earlier this year largely due to soaring raw material costs. For example, many major manufacturers raised prices of their frozen “udon” noodles and fried rice in August.

However, some leading retailers have opened a new store or set up a sales space dedicated to frozen foods.

Aeon Retail Co., which operates the supermarket chain Aeon, opened a frozen food store called @Frozen inside the Aeon Style Shin-Urayasu Mona outlet in Urayasu, Chiba Prefecture, on Aug. 30. The store spans roughly 420 square meters and offers about 1,500 frozen food items.

We started the new business because we see potential in frozen foods,” said Takashi Nishino, an executive director at Aeon Retail. “We are considering further developing the business.”

Matsuya Co., a major department store operator, opened Ginza Frozen Gourmet, a space for selling frozen foods, at its Matsuya Ginza outlet in Tokyo's upscale Ginza district on Aug. 31. 

Shoppers can choose from about 350 frozen prepared foods, many of which are high-priced, and other items from more than 50 brands.

The home appliance sector is also cashing in on the boom in frozen foods as many people are buying another freezer to stock up on the items.

Shipments of home freezers jumped from 230,000 units in 2019 to 403,000 units last year, according to data from the Japan Electrical Manufacturers’ Association.

Leading electric-appliance makers are offering new models with more storage space to meet the growing demand.

(This article was written by Shimpei Doi and Kazumi Tako.)/ The Asahi Shimbun

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