Food Export Blog

In order to bring you the best of industry trends, current news, upcoming activities and more we are updating our blog more frequently than ever before!  Make sure to check back every couple weeks for new posts.
Food Export Blog

Food Export - Country Market Highlight: Japan

by Sarah Larson | Oct 31, 2018

Japan is currently one of the most exciting markets in the world for U.S. exporters of food and agricultural products!

There are tremendous opportunities and rewards for U.S. exporters willing to learn about the Japanese market, trends, and regulations and spend time building their overseas relationships.


Market Overview

As you can see in the infographic above the USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service currently ranks Japan as #4 among U.S. agricultural export markets and it has had a 17% increase in export growth in the last 10 years! According to Euromonitor the Japanese market is expected to strengthen throughout 2018.  And with the current trade situation between the U.S. and China more and more U.S. exporters are looking at Japan as a possible export market.

There has been a lot of talk lately about a future possible Free Trade Agreement between the U.S. and Japan.  While nothing has been officially agreed upon yet, this is a great incentive for U.S. suppliers who haven’t yet explored the Japanese market to start the process.  Breaking into the market and forming the right relationships can take time, so starting now can have great benefits down the road if our two countries do come to an agreement. 

Here is a list of the top processed foods exported to Japan in 2017 according to the USDA Agricultural Trade Office (ATO) in Osaka:

  • Processed vegetables and pulses
  • Prepared/preserved seafood
  • Food preparations
  • Non-alcoholic beverages
  • Processed/prepared dairy products
  • Prepared/preserved meats
  • Processed fruit
  • Distilled spirits and other alcoholic beverages
  • Beer and wine
  • Dog and cat food
  • Snack foods

Traditional menus and tastes are still very important in guiding the Japanese consumer’s habits but Western and other Asian ethnic cuisines are increasingly influencing the culture and the market.  A big focus now is on functional, healthy, and nutritious foods and beverages.  As a whole the Japanese market favors products of high quality that have a good and truthful story to tell.


In 2017 the retail sector amounted to over 60% of the total food market in Japan.


Imports of American consumer ready food products to Japan in 2017

$6.3 Billion – 11% increase from 2016
Japan is the 3rd largest market for U.S. consumer food products


Imports of American processed food products to Japan in 2017

$2.8 Billion – 12% increase from 2016
Japan is the 3rd largest U.S. export market for processed foods


Advantages for U.S. Exporters

There are many advantages to U.S. exporters looking to export to Japan.  

Both the continual growth of Japanese emulation of U.S. food trends and Japan’s dependence on foreign food supply make now a great time to start exploring Japan as a potential export market for your products.

We have seen a large variety of products find success in the Japanese market.  High growth categories for the future include:

  • Breakfast cereals
  • Spreads
  • Ready meals
  • Soups
  • Edible oils
  • Confectionery
  • Ice cream and frozen desserts
  • Baby food
  • Dairy products
  • Sweet biscuits, snack bars and fruit snacks

Don’t see your specific product on the list? Don’t worry! There is still potential for your product in the market. Take a look at our Market Builder program for Japan where you can get customized market research for your specific product.

Market Builder

Success Stories

Wondering if your company can be successful in Japan? 

Learn from other companies who have made it happen! Click the links below to read about Success Stories that have come from the Japanese market.

Michael’s Cookies Begins Baking Sale in Japan

Michael's Cookies

Belmont Foods Gain Exports to Japan

Belmont Foods

igourmet Finds Success at the 2016 Korea & Japan Trade Missions


Future Activities

Start exploring the possibilities that Japan has for you in 2019! Below are all the current activities we have open for registration in Japan in 2019.  We also have booth space available at the Super Market Trade Show in February! Click the link to learn more, add it to your Wishlist or register today!

Food Show PLUS! at SMTS (Super Market Trade Show) 2019


Food Show PLUS! at FOODEX


Food Show PLUS! at Interprets


Food Show PLUS! at FABEX 2019


Food Show PLUS! at ifia HFE Japan 2019


We frequently have Japanese buyers participate in our domestic U.S. Buyers Missions – check out a full list of 2019 Buyers Missions we currently have open for registration here. *Note the available country buyers vary at each event and are not all are known at this time.

Resources for Japan

To learn more about the Japanese market be sure to read Food Export’s full-length Country Market Profile here.

We aren’t the only ones to have great resources about Japan, listed below are a few resources we’ve pulled together for you.

Office of the United State Trade Representative – Japan Profile

  • An overview of the Japanese market with statistics and information about imports and exports

A Day in the Life at FAS Tokyo

  • An inside look at the day to day life of a USDA FAS staff member working overseas

FOODEX Japan Delivers for U.S. Exporters

  • A recap of the 2018 FOODEX one of Japan’s most popular tradeshows, USDA Under Secretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs Ted McKinney (past Food Export-Midwest Board President while he served as Director of the Indiana State Department of Agriculture) was in attendance at the show

Joint Statement of the United States and Japan

  • A joint statement from the U.S. and Japanese governments about the intention to enter into negotiations for a United States – Japan Trade Agreement

Future of the Market

Stay tuned to our online publications, blog, and social media channels for more information about the Japanese market and possibilities in the future.

Happy Exporting!