WASHINGTON, Nov. 9, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The first-ever Organic Day in Japan had something for everyone: an organic "market" showcasing hundreds of American organic products, a briefing for the Japanese business community on the U.S. organic industry, a yoga class for millennials led by a super-model, a seminar on organic for seniors with one of Japan's most celebrated actresses, and an all-organic cocktail hour thrown in for good measure.
The unprecedented event held in Tokyo on Oct. 29 and sponsored by the Organic Trade Association (OTA) not only featured American-made organic products for an eager and interested Japanese audience estimated in the thousands, but explained how organic benefits consumers, farmers, and the environment, and deepened the awareness and trust of the U.S. organic brand, planting seeds for long-term business opportunities in this key Asian nation.
Leading up to Organic Day, 13 of Japan's top organic retailers and 11 organic cafés and restaurants in Tokyo participated in a week-long OTA-organized in-store promotion that highlighted organic products from the United States, and helped to whet the already-growing appetite of the Japanese consumer for organic.
"Organic represents less than 1% of the food industry in Japan, but interest is growing rapidly, so there is plenty of room and momentum to grow," said Monique Marez, OTA's Associate Director of International Trade. "High-quality food is very important to the Japanese consumer. As consumers there learn more about the strict regulations and standards guiding the American organic industry, they are developing more appreciation for organic, its quality and its benefits."
Japan's organic market is valued at a little over a billion dollars, making Japan the ninth largest organic market in the world, according to recent industry estimates. But considering the size of its huge retail and food service sector—around $820 billion—organic's current share of the total domestic market is tiny. Given Japan's stable economy, its solid per capita income, and its discerning consumers, the growth opportunity for organic in Japan is significant.
Since the beginning of 2014, the U.S. and Japan have traded organic products under an organic equivalency arrangement, which allows a product certified as organic in one country to be sold as organic in both. At the time of the signing of the agreement in September 2013, American organic producers and processors were selling about $80 million worth of organic products to Japan each year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Organic exports to Japan have steadily increased since the arrangement, and are up almost 10 percent for the first half of 2015.
An organic market, a business briefing, yoga, and more
The Organic Day events, each of which was designed to target distinctly different consumer audiences, were held at Tokyo's destination shopping complex Omotesando Hills, one of the city's most popular meccas for hundreds of thousands of Tokyo consumers.
An American organic "market" drew more than 5,000 people throughout the day, where many of the visitors got their first look at hundreds of American-made organic products displayed by more than a dozen of Japan's top organic importers. The products ranged from organic beer from Bison Brewing and organic wine from LaRocca Vineyards to organic fermented tea drinks from Kombucha Wonder, organic power bars from GoMacro, organic meals and treats from Amy's Kitchen, and more. Also participating in the "market" was Japan's supermarket giant AEON, which recently launched its own line of organic products.
Around 200 of Japan's leading retailers, importers, marketers and media attended a closely followed and standing-room-only briefing by Marez and Nina Ichikawa of the Berkley Food Policy Institute on the U.S. organic industry and market. The capacity audience actively engaged in the presentation, asking numerous follow-up questions about organic trends, consumer attitudes and organic buying patterns.
A drop-in yoga class led by Japanese super-model Kaori Santoshima attracted more than 50 young Japanese women—key consumers in the country. In between poses, the yoga lovers sipped on bottles of Lakewood Organic Fresh-Pressed juice while Santoshima offered tips on how to create a holistic organic lifestyle.
Directed towards the older consumer, a seminar on organic led by Japanese actress and ardent organic activist Yuki Kudo (who has her own organic farm, café and education center) and Dr. Yukio Hattori (one of Japan's foremost food experts and president of Hattori Nutrition School, the leading professional cooking school in the country) discussed the many benefits of incorporating organic into an individual's diet. Taka Yamaguchi, president of Organic Japan, rounded out the session with an update on his efforts to make Olympic Village—the temporary home for athletes competing in the Tokyo Olympics 2020—an all-organic food haven.
Building organic relationships
The day ended with an all-organic cocktail reception attended by Tokyo business leaders, key thought-leaders in Japan's food sector, and prominent media. Chef John Taboada of the popular farm-to-table restaurant Navarre (Portland, Oregon) served guests organic treats made from locally grown organic foods, organic cheeses from Wisconsin-based organic dairy cooperative Organic Valley, American-made organic prepared foods, and U.S.-produced organic wine. As a final gesture of hospitality, guests were given take-home gift bags with organic products from Vermont Soap and Badger Healthy Body Care.
"Organic Day was one of the largest activities OTA has ever conducted in our role as an official cooperator in USDA's Market Access Program," said Laura Batcha, CEO and Executive Director for OTA. "Japan holds tremendous potential business opportunities for the American organic sector, and OTA's goal is to help the organic industry build the relationships and U.S. organic-brand awareness required for long-term growth in this important market."
OTA has been working to help promote organic agricultural products in international markets and to connect buyers and sellers for 20 years. The first year OTA participated in USDA's Market Access Program was 1999. OTA's membership represents about 85 percent of U.S. organic exports, and the market promotion activities administered by OTA are open to the entire organic industry.
The Organic Trade Association (OTA) is the membership-based business association for organic agriculture and products in North America. OTA is the leading voice for the organic trade in the United States, representing over 8,500 organic businesses across 50 states. Its members include growers, shippers, processors, certifiers, farmers' associations, distributors, importers, exporters, consultants, retailers and others. OTA's Board of Directors is democratically elected by its members. OTA's mission is to promote and protect ORGANIC with a unifying voice that serves and engages its diverse members from farm to marketplace.
SOURCE Organic Trade Association