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Results of JETRO’s Survey on Japanese Foods Directed at Overseas Consumers in China, Hong Kong (China), Chinese Taipei, South Korea, US, France and Italy

Mar 05, 2013

In December 2012, the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) conducted a survey on Japanese foods among overseas consumers. The outline and results of the survey are as follows.


  1. Objective: To explore habits of food consumers overseas, hear opinions about Japanese cuisine and food products directly from those consumers and take advantage of demand. Also to help expand exports of Japanese food products with the results of the survey.
  2. Investigation period: December 6 to 20, 2012
  3. Survey method: Web-based questionnaire
  4. Respondents to the survey: 2,800 overseas consumers between their twenties and fifties and residing in seven countries and regions (not including Japanese residents): China, Hong Kong (China), Chinese Taipei, South Korea, the US, France and Italy (400 subjects from each country, with 100 from each age group [20s, 30s, 40s and 50s] consisting of 50 men and 50 women)
  5. Questions:
    1. Favorite foreign cuisines, including Japanese
    2. Food purchasing habits
    3. Purchasing experience and evaluation of Japanese sake and green tea
    4. Demand for Japanese foods that are currently difficult to be imported

Summary points

1. Ramen and curry rice are enjoying popularity on the back of increasing number of specialty restaurants and spread of Japanese animation
Regarding favorite foreign cuisines, Japanese cuisine ranked first in all countries and regions except for the US (where it ranked third) receiving a high evaluation (figure 1). Sushi, yakitori and tempura were especially popular regardless of country or region. The results also showed the popularity of ramen noodles both in Asia and the US, while curry rice is preferred in Europe (fig.2). A ramen boom seems to be behind an increase in restaurants specializing in the dish, while curry rice has been accepted by consumers thanks to its frequent appearance in Japanese animation.
Note: Multiple answers are allowed from fig.1 to 3. Figures show percentage of answers out of
the total.

【Figure 1】 Favorite foreign cuisines
Q. “What are your favorite cuisines when you go out to eat at foreign food restaurants?” (Multiple answers allowed)

【Fig. 2】 Favorite Japanese dishes
Q. “What are your favorite Japanese dishes?” (Multiple answers allowed)

2. Source of information differs between Europe and Asia when choosing imported foods
Regarding how information is collected when choosing what imported foods to buy, there were clearly regional differences. European consumers make use of “recommendations of friends and acquaintances” and “personal experience,” while Asian consumers, especially those from China and South Korea (table.1) put importance on “online comments, chatrooms, blogs, SNS, etc.” and “reliable brand name” (fig.3). The results indicate what kind of marketing methods should be considered toward Asian and European consumers.

【Fig. 3】 Source of information when buying imported foods
Q. “What sources of information do you usually make use of when buying imported foods in general?” (Multiple answers allowed)
Country Number of respondents Number of answers
China 293 369
South Korea 150 206
Taiwan 134 177
Hong Kong 121 144
US 74 97
France 43 43
Italy 41 43
Websites used by Chinese consumers as a reference
Website names Number of answers
Dianping (mainly gourmet website) 92
Sina Microblog 54
Renrenwan (SNS) 48
Sina (portal website) 30
QQ (portal website) 16
Sina Blog 13
Tianya (community site) 13
Kaixin.com (SNS) 12
Meishichina.com (gourmet website) 7
Baidu (search site) 5
Sohu.com (portal website) 5
Websites used by South Korean consumers as a reference
Website names Number of answers
Naver (portal website) 90
Daum (portal website) 32
Facebook (SNS) 21
Blog 6
Twitter 6
Yahoo (portal website) 5
Note: The above are websites which received more than five answers in China and South Korea.

3. Japanese sake highly esteemed in China and the US. Ginjo-shu (sake made from highly milled rice, with or without added alcohol) and Junmai-shu (pure sake) are gaining popularity in the US.
As for refined Japanese sake, 80% of respondents, especially those from China and the US, highly appreciated its taste (fig. 4). Behind the high evaluation in the US, there seems to be steady popularity of high priced ginjo-shu and junmai-shu, supported by mutual efforts between Japanese sake manufacturers and American buyers in promoting sake. (Note: As sake is also produced in China and the US by Japanese sake producers, many respondents might have confused sake made in those countries with that made in Japan.)

【Fig. 4】 Evaluation of refined Japanese sake
Q. “How would you rate Japanese sake in relation to the alcoholic beverages of other countries (ex. beer, wine, whisky) in terms of taste, appearance, image, etc.?”

4. Japanese green tea well-received by French women with its anti-oxidizing effect
Japanese green tea is highly esteemed by more than 90% of respondents, especially by French consumers (fig. 5). 62.7% of 150 French women respondents evaluated it as “excellent.” In France, Japanese green tea has become an increasingly familiar drink at cafes and households in recent years, and its anti-oxidizing effect is drawing attention from women as a way to slow the effects of aging.

【Fig. 5】 Evaluation of Japanese green tea
Q. “How would you rate Japanese green tea in relation to the teas produced by other countries (ex. oolong tea, black tea, Jasmine tea, etc.) in terms of taste, appearance, image, etc.?

5. High demand for Japanese beef and peaches
Regarding foods people want to try among those currently are difficult to be imported, beef and peaches were selected by many respondents in all subject countries, while other popular foods were strawberries in China, loquat in South Korea, Japanese cherries in the US and chicken in France. (fig. 6 – 11).

Fig. 6-11: Japanese foods people want to try (China, Chinese Taipei, South Korea, the US, France and Italy)
Q. “Please mark the food products that you would like to try and/or to have your family members try.” The following food ingredients are the most popular items among the majority of Japanese consumers due to high quality and great taste. (Multiple answers allowed)

Note: Options vary depending on each country as some Japanese foods that are difficult to be imported in certain countries.
Multiple answers are allowed from fig. 6 to 11. Figures show percentage of answers for each country out of a total of 400 people.

【Fig. 6】China
【Fig. 7】Taiwan
【Fig. 8】South Korea
【Fig. 9】US
【Fig. 10】France
【Fig. 111】Italy

For more information, please contact:

Contact Person: Ms. Tomomi Endo
Agriculture, Forestry, Fisheries and Food Research Division
Tel: 03-3582-5186 E-mail: AFC@jetro.go.jp