The certification program of Japanese Food and Ingredient Supporter Stores Overseas

Interview of Supporter Stores Marukai

A retail store with a wide selection of 5,000 Japanese food products in a prime location of the Asian quarters rich in Japanese culture

Sao Paulo / Brazil

Pioneer in the sale of Japanese food products

The Liberdade district in Sao Paulo, Brazil, is the Asian quarters, one of the most popular tourist destinations in the city. Many tourists from all over Brazil and the world visit this place for shopping. In this district, a torii gate stands as the symbol of Japanese culture, and along the street, visitors can enjoy a variety of Japanese food such as sushi, ramen, udon, and set menus. In addition to Japanese-Brazilians living in Sao Paulo and those related to Japanese companies operating in the city, many non-Japanese people, including tourists, now do their daily food shopping in this district. Marukai, established in this district in 1999, is a leading Japanese food retailer handling 2,000 Japanese food products imported on its own, totaling 5,000 items including those purchased from other importers. The store is a pioneer in Brazil as a supermarket handling Japanese food products. The founder, Johnny Guo (born in Taiwan and raised in Sao Paulo), is a leading entrepreneur in the Liberdade area. He and his wife Lucia Yamamoto Guo, a third-generation Japanese-Brazilian, co-own the store and four other stores adjacent to the Liberdade metro station, which is the closest to the district.

Developing diverse businesses

About 50 meters away from the well-stocked Marukai, Guo opened Momo Lamen House in 2016. “We serve an average 1,000 bowls of ramen a day,” explained Guo. In 2018, a coffee shop named 89°C Coffee Station opened in front of the station, a popular spot crowded every day from early in the morning. It offers specialty coffee, bread, cakes, pastries, and more. Across the intersection, Guo opened Maruso in 2019, which occupies three floors of the building and sells food, daily necessities, and sundries. On weekends, there are long lines of customers waiting to get into the store. Guo says, in order to maintain and improve the quality of service provided by these stores, he should visit the stores daily and maintain constant communication with the staff. As the store handles many products and adds improvements from the consumer's perspective, it now imports products on its own, in addition to indirect trade. This is an improvement in its business policy, Guo says. “By importing products directly, we can coordinate and negotiate with manufacturers without compromising the selection of products that fit the market, and we can take on challenges quickly responding to local trends,” he explains.

Pioneering the leading edge of the times

Guo is recognized by those in the same trade as an entrepreneur who is ahead of the times. The products on the shelves of Marukai include products essential for daily life and new products targeting Brazilian consumers. For example, retort-packed foods, which until five years ago were almost unknown in Brazil, are now being consumed by ordinary households thanks to active import by Marukai. Guo explains, “Especially for those living alone, they are convenient because they can be stored for long time and are extremely easy to prepare.” It seems no exaggeration to say that retort-packed curry sauce and boiled rice have become popular items of Marukai. Guo is aware that he is a trendsetter, and feels responsibility that comes with it. For the convenience of consumers, he has begun opening his stores on weekends in the Liberdade area, and has installed air conditioning systems to create a comfortable shopping environment in the stores. It is also true that these efforts have improved the quality of the stores. 

Japanese food ingredients Guo wants to handle in the future

Guo shows interest in processed marine products and wagyu beef. “The Brazilian Health Regulatory Agency (ANVISA) puts strict regulations on the import of animal products, so we need to consider cost effectiveness of importing such food comparing (expected days of delay at import customs clearance and) the expiration of the food, but we would like to try importing them," Guo demonstrated his willingness. ”It is regrettable that we cannot sell wagyu beef at affordable prices for the general consumers. I would like to develop a sales route to high-end restaurants by handling it myself,” he said showing his spirits. He also hopes to expand the import of new sake brands. He had the bitter experience of discarding a large amount of unsold products that had expired during the COVID-19 pandemic that began in 2020, but the economy is gradually recovering, and he hopes to work to get back to the pre-pandemic situation as soon as possible. Guo is actively participating in the events in collaboration with JETRO Sao Paulo. He stressed that more than 30% increase of curry roux sales in the “Curry Month” event in 2021 was attributable to his efforts with influencers and other initiatives. He said that he will continue promotion of Japanese food ingredients and make efforts to serve as a center for disseminating Japanese food.   

List of shops

Marukai Oriental Market
Rua Galvão Bueno 34 - Liberdade, SP Brasil
Tel: +55 11 3341 3350 site: a new window will open. site: a new window will open.