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International Food Machinery and Technology Exhibition Commences With Theme of "Tasty Technology"

June 11, 2009

With the theme of "Here is tasty technology!" the International Food Machinery and Technology Exhibition (FOOMA JAPAN 2009) commenced at Tokyo Big Sight on June 9. Food processing machinery and equipment businesses gathered for this event. A total of 665 companies participated, occupying 2,951 exhibition stands. At the previous event, there were 702 participating companies with 3,061 booths. The FOOMA JAPAN will be held for four consecutive days until June 12.

A vast array of business fields lined up for the exhibition, starting from food materials processing, food manufacturing and processing, engineering, production control system, IT solution, food preservation, to quality maintenance, a total of 14 different areas. In addition, packing and filling, storage and logistics, food sanitation control, environmental protection and recycling, equipment and engineering parts, measurement/analysis and inspection, as well as materials and condiments, also erected exhibition stands.

"Robot Food Park," set up in the West Exhibition Hall, offered unique select robots, such as "Okonomiyaki Robot" (Japanese style pancake robot) and "Pastry Chef Robot." The robots demonstrated food services, symbolizing the future world of food and machines.

Responding to environmental issues, waste edible oil generated at booths was refined into bio diesel and also food residues were converted into compost at the West Hall 1 and 2.

Food machineries, which offered demonstrations and/or samples, are as follows:

Food slicer, food cooker, and washer (AIHO Co.); pastry manufacturing machine (Aicohsha Manufacturing Co); inspection equipment for instant foods (Satake); new model of sushi robot, sushi roll robot, and rice ball robot (Suzumo Machinery Co.); fully automated pot sticker manufacturing machine (Nakai Machinery Co.); seafood and meat cutter and blender (Naganuma); pasta manufacturing machine and rice ball machine (Fuji Seiki); IH fryer (Yanagiya); soymilk machine and bottle wrapping machine (Lands Work); ozone water manufacturing machine (Regal Joint); and slicer for pork cutlets (Watanabe Foodmach)

Figure 1: Ishida introducing a computing scale.

The original article was published on June 11, 2009 and was translated by Kiyo Hayasaka.

Sushi Boat Report, Part 1: Genkai Nada Restaurant

June 11, 2009

The food service industry has been enduring bitter fights against a consumer freeze caused by an economic meltdown since last autumn. The increasingly expanding sushi boat business just now hit the yellow light. There is also the reality that low priced marine foods from all over the world crowd up Japan as a result of a global scale demand decline. This series reports popular sushi boat restaurants, which are struggling between the consumer freeze and their efforts to reduce raw material costs.

Sushi boat restaurant "Genkai Nada," under management of Fumitoshi Tsuchiya located in Edogawa City, Tokyo, is popular among locals for its high quality and service, which is the same or even better than traditional sushi restaurants. President Tsuchiya opened the restaurant five years ago after apprenticing at a traditional Japanese cuisine restaurant. Hot menu items are "Today's special six-piece sushi combo," priced at \700 to 900, which uses fresh seasonal fish obtained from Ota Market every morning; and "Squid sushi boat" (\980), which utilizes a whole squid.

"Squid sushi boat" embodies a sense of luxury with squid sashimi and two pieces of sushi served on a boat. Sweetness and crunchiness peculiar to squid can be enjoyed simultaneously, when a beaten gut in soy sauce is savored. With an additional \105, they deep-fry squid legs is another favored way of enjoying the restaurant; the majority of steady patrons, who constitute 80 percent of customers, order this item.

The restaurant uses full-bodied soy sauce from Kyushu. For clients in the Kanto area, this type of soy sauce is not agreeable; however, "after trying it a few times, they get hooked completely," according to President Tsuchiya. "Especially, a combination of a squid gut and the Kyushu soy sauce is superb. Some of my regulars increasingly say that this soy sauce works great with squid sashimi, white fish, and tuna," said the President. The restaurant also sells the soy sauce, which numerous customers acquire as a souvenir.

Furthermore, as a general rule, in every Sunday afternoon, "Maguro Kaitai Show" (tuna dissection show) is held. Southern bluefin, weighing more than 30 kg, is cut up and served as sushi and/or sashimi. Kamatoro, of which each tuna possesses a small amount, is offered reasonably to a winner of the rock-paper-scissors competitions that entertain customers a great deal.

The company also opened a creative sushi restaurant in Tokyo last year.

Figure 1: Squid Sushi Boat and Today's Special Six-Piece Sushi Combo

The original article was published on June 11, 2009 and was translated by Kiyo Hayasaka.

Kinki Univ.'s Farmed Bluefin: Tasting Event Held in Tokyo

June 8, 2009

Kinki University is slated to make a special sale of "Bluefin Bowl," for which the university used its 100% farmed raised bluefin, at "Daigaku wa Oishii Fair" (University's Tasty Foods Fair), scheduled to be held form June 11 through 16 in Tokyo.

This 100% cultured bluefin is often talked about in the mass media. Negitoro Don (a mix of fatty tuna and scallion on rice) and Nishoku Don (red tuna meat and fatty tuna on rice) are priced at \1,155; and Maguro Zukushi Don (all tuna on rice) will be sold at \2,100. Each rice bowl comes with a tuna soup. Female students from the Kinki University Fisheries Research Center in Wakayama Prefecture will promote the products at the fair in happi coats.

The original article was published on June 8, 2009 and was translated by Kiyo Hayasaka.

Grater Amberjack Producers in Kagoshima Pref. Close Down Business One After Another

June 4, 2009

Low fish prices and difficulties getting loans are forcing greater amberjack producers in Kagoshima Prefecture out of business, one after the other. 30 businesses have already shut their doors, in comparison to five years ago. There were 145 business entities at the time, now there is a possibility that this number may go below 100.

For Kagoshima Prefecture, aquaculture is one of the backbone industries. Numerous intertwining factors have engendered a situation where prices fall below costs. The tumbling of the fish prices auctioned at ports of landing in the past few years; skyrocketing feed prices from last year; and increasing material costs, resulting from fuel price hikes, just to name a few.

Greater amberjack, especially, is distributed at around the end of the year when its demand rises; however, Japanese amberjack (adult yellowtail) with reasonable price and improved quality pushes greater amberjack off to the side, ending in a glut of Japanese amberjack and resultant lower market prices. The producers are facing the situation of "the more fish they produce, the more deficits pile up," forcing them to the edge of inevitable business closures.

Moreover, the loan requirements by fisheries credit cooperatives became more stringent from last year, making the distressed situation even worse. Four categories of loans, an assessment base used by conventional financial institutions, started to be applied by the credit cooperatives. For this reason, the fisheries cooperatives fail to finance businesses, even though they wish to do so. As a result, the fact that producers who cannot continuously receive loans, are on the rise, is another serious contributing factor to the closing of businesses.

Discussions initiated by the JF National Federation of fisheries Cooperatives, "Intermediate summary of Council of Audit System in JF Group" and " Reinforcement of JF management leadership improvement," adversely affected the situation and led to a larger deficit amount by fisheries cooperatives, which generated a situation where producers could not receive essential fish feed all of a sudden.

Kinichi Haraguchi, Senior Managing Director of Kagoshima JF Sales (under management of President Nobuyoshi Umekita) said, "I hear that the current situation was caused by a lack of managerial capability on producers' side; however, it is a great regret that excellent business entities are forced out of business. As countermeasures against this, it will be needed to set up an aquaculture stability fund. I don't understand that fish prices at supermarkets haven't shown any changes, which should reflect such prices so low that producers cannot avoid closing businesses. It leads me to believe that we need to come up with the way for equal profit distribution. If we left the situation as it is, individual business entities would eventually die out, just leaving large enterprises in sight."

The original article was published on June 4, 2009 and was translated by Kiyo Hayasaka.

Nippon Suisan "Pursues Appropriate Amount and Pricing"

June 4, 2009

Executive Director Susumu Kaneda now takes charge in Foods Business in a new structure of Nippon Suisan. He shared his general view of the first half term of food operations, which center around frozen foods, and his thoughts on the future sales strategies, on June 2.

Mr. Kaneda indicated the following three subjects of frozen foods operations: 1) suggestion of store based products; 2) development of new product categories; and 3) promotion of growth strategies. The corresponding ideas are the creation of products that harness the management resources of marine foods and foods; products suitable for the elderly and health conscious; and the promotion of overseas sales strategies based in Asia.

As far as a noteworthy topic of pricing strategy goes, he suggested that the company "pursue a pricing strategy which provides a convenient amount at right prices for consumers and users with a notion of "adequate amounts at appropriate prices" at the core. He additionally indicated that the company would not simply entertain the trend of low prices against a backdrop of increasing raw material costs in the mid- and long-term perspectives.

Realizing a goal of monthly sales of \10 billion for the previous fiscal term in the division of Foods Business, the company now set another one for \11 billion for this current year, which was "achieved during the months of April and May." He, however, cautiously added that "Nevertheless, the business environment is further getting worse, and therefore we cannot stay optimistic."

Full-Fledged Operation of New Hachikan Frozen Food Plant

Mr. Kaneda, referring to Chinese products which suffered slumping demand in the last fiscal year, said, "As the distribution sector calls for lower prices more strongly, demand on Chinese products is on the rise; furthermore, it appears that a consumer distrust of such products is somewhat growing weaker. In this fiscal year, a comeback of Chinese products may materialize."

Eiichiro Yamahashi, Director of the Department of Food Service Products, commented on a new large-scale frozen food plant of Hachikan, which was just completed last autumn as a base plant of domestic productions of the Nissui Group:

"Eight lines are producing a wide variety of products, such as croquette, gratin, deep-fried marine foods, and fried wontons. With the help of Nippon Suisan sales, production is getting on the right track now. The balance of revenue with expense will take a while because of this large scale investment. However, we are aiming for a total shipment amount of \8 billion; for this term, 15,000 tons are planned, as opposed to 6,500 tons last year. Especially, the popularity of fried white fish with tartar sauce and squid tempura, among others, is noteworthy and the new plant is in full production."

The original article was published on June 4, 2009 and was translated by Kiyo Hayasaka.

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