Japanese food has grown in popularity the last 10 years pretty much everywhere in the world.  Almost everyone associates sushi with Japanese food but not much else.  In the USA there are sushi counters in almost every grocery store in upper middle income areas and the trend shows no sign of slowing down soon.  In Southeast Asia, conveyor belt sushi chains are especially popular because of the variety and reasonable price.

As global consumers become more sophisticated, they are learning more about Japanese food and they are demanding and getting more variety.

Japan flag   Very few industry experts were optimistic about ramen in the USA market but the food type is very hot now and popular in every major city in the country.  I was recently in Austin TX and surprised to see lines outside the leading ramen store in that city. There are ramen booms all over Southeast Asia with many cities like Hong Kong and Singapore becoming over saturated with locations.  Of course Ajisen Ramen was a big hit in China before several PR scandals and negative political events impacted the business and slowed the growth of the chain.

Tonkatsu (fried pork) concepts are now springing up in Seoul, Manila and Hong Kong.  Saboten is quite prominent now in the first two markets and Ginza Bairen recently opened their first shop in the IFC Mall in Central and is always busy.

Japanese family dining chains like Watami are also very popular.  In Hong Kong alone, the Watami Group has over 30 stores and they are growing rapidly in China. Watami is pretty much in every key Asian city today offering affordable home style Japanese food to the middle income consumer.

Many more opportunities exist to broaden the concepts that can be offered.  I think there is potential for tempura, unagi, yakitori as well as Japanese dessert shops.

The Japanese food trend has a long ways to go yet before the music stops!


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