Why is Japanese fast-food industry attractive? 日本の外食産業はなぜ魅力的なのか

Taco Bell, the major American fast-food chain specializing in Mexican food, reopened its store in Japan in April after a hiatus of some 20 years. In May, American coffee chain Starbucks opened its store in Tottori Prefecture, attaining market penetration in all of the country’s 47 prefectures. Fast-food chains are now showing signs of recovery from the doldrums that followed the burst of speculative bubbles.



The word "fast-food industry" made its debut in Japan around 1970. The second round of capital liberalization by the Japanese government and Kentucky Fried Chicken’s opening of an outlet at the Osaka World Exposition helped lure more Japanese to eat out. The habit got a boost when Skylark Group opened its first family restaurant in Japan in 1970. The food service industry developed rapidly in tandem with Japan’s high economic growth. But its growth slowed down after the collapse of the bubble economy in the early 1990s. The market plummeted to 23.9 trillion in 2013 from the peak-time 29 trillion yen in 1997 as some foreign chains withdrew from Japan. Will Taco Bell’s comeback and the nationwide development by Starbucks help stem the market contraction?



There are several factors that prompt foreign fast-food chains to foray into the Japanese market. One is that they can make products globally acceptable in terms of quality in Japan. Japanese people have become increasingly conscious about food safety since the outbreak in 1955 of arsenic poisoning cases involving Morinaga Milk Industry Co. According to a poll of some 6,000 persons conducted in 2010 by American Express International in six countries, 67% of Japanese replied, “Whether I buy a product depends on its quality”. The ratio was the highest among the six countries. This indicates that Japanese are one of the most difficult consumers in the world. But in other words, a company can be viable anywhere in the world if it can make a product acceptable to Japanese consumers.



The second factor is Japan’s big population and economic muscle. The Japanese population is decreasing due to the declining birth rate. But it is still big at about 126 million, ranking 10th in the world. Even a niche-market product in which only 3% of Japanese are interested can reach 3.78 million people. According to data released by the Japan Food Service Association (JF), annual sales by its member companies remained almost flat in 2014 as compared with the previous year. This indicates the industry is just marking time. However, Japan is the third-biggest economy and its per-capita purchasing power exceeds that of China, now the world's second-biggest economy.



According to a projection by American management consultant company A. T. Kearney, the world’s food-related market will swell to reach 680 trillion yen in 2020. In such prospect, a big challenge for the Japanese food service industry seems to be whether it can prepare a market even more attractive to foreign chains in the future.



(Written by: Kazuki Nakao)


コメント: 1
  • #1

    くすのき (水曜日, 08 7月 2015 20:57)