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May Household Expenditure Report Indicates 4% Decline in Seafood Consumptio

July 4, 2008

The May household expenditure report summarized by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, said that the consumption expenditure per household of more than two was 288,128 yen or 1.7% down from the same month last year. The food expense increased 0.5% to 75,471 yen, of which the expense of seafood was 7,130 yen, down 4.1%.

Money spent on fresh marine products declined by 6.4% to 4,268 yen. Detailed decreases by fish are as follows: tuna 20.4%; octopus 13.1%; mackerel 11.8%; horse mackerel 11.4%; squid 9.3%; amberjack 8.7%; saury 8.2%. On the contrary, sea bream (12.3%), crab (6.5%), and salmon (5.7%) smoothly went up. Each household spent 362 yen on seashells; the same amount as the previous year. Fresh water clam slumped by 19.5% and scallop went up 6.2%.

Dried or salted fish increased 1.0% to 1,371 yen; both dried sardine and cod roe increased 15.6% and 8.5%, respectively. Small dried sardine significantly declined by 16.3%.

Fish meat products suffered a loss of 2.2% down to 655 yen; fried kamaboko* and kamaboko dropped 8.7% and 8.3%, respectively. Chikuwa** and other fish paste products thrived. Other processed marine products decreased 1.2% to 836 yen. Cooked seafood was down 13.9%. Both pickled fish (9.4%) and shredded bonito (9.1%) fell, as well.

Despite a slump in the majority of fishery categories, canned seafood performed well with a 14.8% increase. Dried seaweed fell by 3.9%, amounting to 713 yen; wakame (undaria pinnatifida) slumped by 15.3% and kelp decreased 7.1%. Ready-to-eat seafood products went down 3.5% to 7,784 yen; BBQ eel drastically dropped by 31.5%. Prepared frozen products were 18.5% down. Sushi in a to-go box fell by 5.8%. Money spent on dining-out amounted to 14,429 yen, up 0.4%, of which sushi declined by 2.9%.

*Kamaboko is minced and steamed fish; fish cake.

**Chikuwa is fish stick.

Translated by Kiyo Hayasaka on July 3, 2008

Consumer Food Survey Reports Importance of Freshness and Safety

July 4, 2008

The Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Finance Corporation conducted a consumer survey of “food brands.” It became clear that consumers’ deciding factors on food purchases were freshness and safety, not advertisement, promotions, and name brands.

The survey found that the majority of consumers opted to shop at supermarkets and/or co-op stores. Consumers preferred to purchase rice and vegetables directly from producers, including farmers’ markets. They based their purchase decisions on freshness, safety, and price.

Freshness of merchandise, excluding rice, beef, and flowers, was perceived as the most important factor. Conversely, the survey revealed that advertisements, promotions, and name brands were given little importance in any of food categories. The percentage of consumers’ awareness of “JAS organic certification” was as low as 30 percent, a significant drop compared to a survey conducted in June 2002.

The majority of consumers, who were aware of certifications, recognized both “JAS organic certification” and “certified specially grown agricultural produce” as “proof of food safety”. “Prefectural and city government certification” and “certified local brands” were thought of as “local signature product.”

Comparing ordinary domestic produce with certified domestic produce, the large number of consumers would consider selecting the latter as long as it was equally priced. With certified domestic produce being 10% higher in cost than the ordinary kind, less than half of the responded consumers would buy it, proving that certifications did not necessarily add value to brands.

On the contrary, when JAS certified rice or rice certified as specially grown agricultural produce is more than 30% higher in cost than the non-certified kind, many of the supermarket and co-op store shoppers expressed their interest in purchasing one.

This survey was conducted online in May 2008, targeting 2,000 male and female respondents in the 20’s to 60’s age groups.

Translated by Kiyo Hayasaka on July 3, 2008

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