Meat substitutes go mainstream in Japan, with sales set to rise by 5% CAGR over 2021-26, says GlobalData

Owing to the high penetration of seafood, veganism has failed to gain a foothold in Japan as it has in the West. However, the onset of COVID-19 has turned the tide, with more health-conscious and experimentative youth making vegan meat a part of their diets. As a result, the Japanese meat substitutes market is set to register a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 5% to reach JPY36.3 billion ($373.5 million) by 2026, forecasts GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company.

GlobalData’s report, “Japan Meat Substitutes – Market Assessment and Forecasts to 2026,” reveals that the market growth will be spearheaded by the soy-based category, with the fastest value CAGR of 5.1% over the forecast period, and the grain-based category with a 4.7% CAGR. The high affinity for the soy-based meat substitutes stems from the fact that soy-based foods, such as soy sauce and miso, are deeply ingrained in traditional Japanese cuisine.

Bobby Verghese, Consumer Analyst at GlobalData, says: “The availability of meatless meat options in retail stores during the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated consumer awareness and first-time purchases. The long shelf-life of meat substitutes attracted Japanese shoppers as they stocked their pantries to avoid frequent trips to grocery stores. The market gained momentum as more brands entered the fray and rolled out diverse product types, customized for Japanese palates. As the COVID-19 regulations were eased, and foodservice venues reopened in 2021, leading operators cashed in on the veganism trend, launching animal-free meat dishes, thereby popularizing meat substitutes.”

Consequently, the per capita expenditure (PCE) on meat substitutes in Japan increased from $0.5 in 2016 to $1 in 2021, surpassing the regional PCE of $0.2 and the global average of $0.5.

​Verghese adds: “Health, safety, sustainability, and taste are the key factors stimulating the purchase of meat substitutes in Japan. Western food trends are also strongly influencing young Japanese consumers to adopt flexitarian and vegan lifestyles. Japan’s PCE on meat substitutes will therefore rise to $1.5 by 2026.”

In 2021, hypermarkets & supermarkets was the leading distribution channel in the Japanese meat substitutes market, followed by convenience stores, and e-retailers. Saniku Foods, Taishi Food, and Marukome were the top three companies in the Japanese meat substitutes market in value terms, and San-iku and Taishi Cornetto were the leading brands in 2021.

Verghese concludes: “In light of the sporadic COVID-19 outbreaks in 2022, health-conscious consumers are expected to make dishes with meat alternatives a regular addition to their diets. The onus is on the manufacturers to introduce products with the taste, aroma, and visual profile of animal meat, in customized formats for Japanese cuisine. With consumer price inflation in 2022 rising at the fastest pace in four decades, affordability will be a key factor influencing sales of meat substitutes in Japan.”

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