Foodservice Profile – Japan
With a population of approximately 127 million and a gross domestic product (GDP) of US$5 trillion in 2018, Japan is one of the largest consumer markets in the world, providing opportunities for Canadian exporters, especially for those interested in the foodservice market.
The Japanese foodservice industry is expected to see continued slow growth. The contraction of the consumer base due to a shrinking and aging population and an ongoing trend towards eating at home, underpinned by increasingly hectic consumer lifestyles, are set to constrain growth, while operators continue to struggle with the effects of the labour shortage (Euromonitor, 2019).
Despite the slow growth, the Japanese consumer foodservice industry remains important, reaching sales of US$274.6 billion in 2018. Overseas visitors to Japan in 2018, one of the important consumer groups in foodservice, reached 31.2 million and are expected to continue rapidly increasing into the future, boosted by the Tokyo Olympics in 2020 and The World Expo being held in Osaka in 2025.
Restaurants are Japan's largest for profit foodservice subsector, reaching US$139.8 billion in 2018, with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 1.0% from 2015 to 2018. Pubs, clubs and bars (PCBs) ranked the second biggest subsector at value sales (US$52.1 billion) in 2018, followed by retail (on-trade) venues (US$30.1 billion), accommodation venues (US$24.9 billion) and workplace cafés (US$15.8 billion). All subsectors grew modestly from 2015 to 2018.
The "7-Eleven" franchise was the top foodservice company with value sales of US$6 billion in 2017, which accounted for 2.7% share of the foodservice market in Japan. Other top foodservice companies were McDonalds (US$4.6 billion), Lawson, Inc. (US$4.2 billion), FamilyMart (US$2.2 billion) and Gusto (US$1.8 billion).
Japan has one of world's most developed food supply chains. Individual restaurants tend to buy food at nearby fresh food markets, super markets, and/or retail stores. Chain restaurants tend to procure food from food service industry wholesalers who offer combined shipment/delivery of foods and restaurant business materials.
Note: this report focuses on profit operators rather than institutional cost operators (education, healthcare or hospitals).
Consumer profile and trend
With a population of approximately 127 million and a gross domestic product (GDP) of US$5 trillion in 2018, Japan is the third-largest economy in the world, providing opportunities for Canadian exporters, especially for those interested in a major consumer foodservice market.
Japan has one of the most demanding consumer bases in the world with regards to product quality and innovation. Japan also has a large, aging population, as well as low birth rates. These demographic changes will affect future prospects for growth in the foodservice sector.
Consumers in Japan are increasingly reluctant to spend money due to economic uncertainty. They also find it difficult to find spare time in a day due to their busy lifestyle. This is leading Japan to a slow growth across multiple foodservice channels. Consumers also report very little desire to drink alcohol outside their homes. However, time scarcity is causing younger consumers to turn to chain outlets.Footnote 1
Consumer trends driving foodservice consumption in Japan have shifted in recent years. During the 2010-2015 period, consumer trends in foodservice were reflected on the following four aspects:
- Price consciousness
- Significant value focus in channels other than full-service restaurant (FSR); low consumer confidence
- Good to have where possible, distinct expectations from consumers
- Distinct channel boundaries
- Clear differences between quick service restaurant (QSR), FSR , PCB and coffee and tea shops
- Consumers are more excited about new experiences rather than new products
However, from 2016 to 2021 consumer trends mainly focused on and will continue to focus on the following four aspects:
- Value over price
- Discerning consumers more willing to spend if convinced
- Operators re-doubling efforts to fit into consumers' lives
- Blurred channel boundaries
- Channel boundaries blurring as operators offer more and borrow concepts from other channels.
- Smart Experiences
- Use mobile technology to offer smarter ways to shop to maximize efficiency and value
(Source: Global Data. Japan - The Future of Foodservice to 2021, 2018)
The overall foodservice market
Japan's labour shortage, resulting from a shrinking and aging population and a historically restrictive approach to immigration, remains a serious issue for the industry. The limited labour supply has driven up wages, while foodservice operators have also seen costs rise due to the rising cost of ingredients.
The Japanese consumer foodservice industry is expected to see continued sluggish growth over the forecast period. The contraction of the consumer base due to a demographic change and an ongoing trend towards eating at home underpinned by increasingly busy consumer lifestyles, are set to constrain growth, while operators continue to struggle with the effects of the labour shortage. Operators also need to shift focus towards tourists.Footnote 2
Japan became the world's fastest growing travel destination for the past ten years. In 2018. Overseas visitors to Japan in 2018 reached 31.2 million and is expected to meet the goal of 40 million by 2020Footnote 3.
Restaurants are Japan's largest foodservice subsector, reaching US$139.8 billion in 2018, with a CAGR of 1.0% from 2015 to 2018. It is expected to reach US$143.3 billion by 2022, with a CAGR of 0.4%. Pub, clubs and bar (PCB) ranked the second biggest in value sales (US$52.1 billion) in 2018, followed by retail (on-trade) venues
(US$30.1 billion), accommodation venues (US$24.9 billion) and workplace cafés (US$15.8 billion). All subsectors grew modestly from 2015 to 2018 and are expected to grow marginally from 2019 to 2022.
Consolidation varies by channel: the QSR and coffee and tea shop channels have a high penetration of chained operators, whereas the FSR and PCB channels are highly fragmented. Channels that were formerly distinct from one another are increasingly offering products and formats that overlap channel boundaries. Examples of channel boundaries blurring include the provision of alcohol in QSR and full service venues in coffee and tea shops.Footnote 1
|Subsector||2015||2018||Share %, 2018||CAGR* % 2015-2018||2019||2022||CAGR* % 2019-2022|
|Pub, club & bar||50,961.2||52,067.3||19.0||0.5||52,276.4||52,746.2||0.2|
Source: GlobalData, 2019
*CAGR: Compound Annual Growth Rate
1: dining area within retail markets
In Japan, the restaurant subsector had the largest sales in the Japanese profit foodservice sector, accounting for 50.9% of total foodservice revenue in 2018. Within the restaurant subsector, casual dining outlets recorded the highest sales at US$91.5 billion in 2018, followed by fast food restaurants (US$29.5 billion). These top two outlets accounted for 86.5% of the total sales within the restaurant subsector (US$139.8 billion).
In 2018, casual dining outlets accounted for 33.2% of the total foodservice sector sales (US$274.6 billion), while fast food restaurants accounted for 10.8%. Both outlets grew well at a CAGR of 0.9% and 1.5%, respectively from 2015 to 2018 and are forecast to grow moderately at a CAGR of 0.3% and 0.4%, respectively from 2019 to 2022. In 2018, fine dining outlet had sales of US$5 billion, which is 18.3 times less than the casual dining's sales and 6 times less than the fast food restaurants' sales. This reflects that Japanese, especially among working people, tend to eat quickly due to their fast lifestyle, while most of the senior people enjoy a fine dining experience. Casual dining operators try to compete directly with the fast food outlets. Time-poor consumers are increasingly demanding a more convenience-focused product offering from the more casual end of the channel. In comparison, fast food operators are expanding across channel boundaries to increase the number of visitors' frequency, targeting less price-sensitive consumers. One key example is offering alcohol with snacks, competing directly with the PCB channel.
In 2018, the coffee and tea shop outlet had sales of US$11.6 billion, accounting for 4.2% of overall sales in the foodservice sector. These outlets have a significant number of larger chained operators present, both locally grown and international. Key companies include Starbucks, Doutor, Komeda and Tully's. Many consumers use this outlet as a compromise between the convenience offered by the fast food outlet and the relaxation offered by the full service restaurant. Many older consumers also use the outlet for routine socialization and relaxation. The coffee and tea shops are increasingly becoming polarized between locations that offer a convenient on-the-go service to time poor diners and locations that offer a relaxing atmosphere in which diners can relax and socialize with friends.
In 2018, the PCB subsector was the second largest by revenue in the Japanese profit foodservice sector, accounting for 19% of total revenue. Within the PCB subsector, nightclubs recorded the highest sales at US$23.9 billion in 2018, followed by bars (US$15.2 billion), and pubs (US$10.1 billion). These three outlets grew at a CAGR of 0.8%, 0.3% and 0.3%, respectively from 2015 to 2018 and are forecast to grow at a CAGR of 0.2%, 0.1% and 0.1%, respectively from 2019 to 2022.
Within the retail (on-trade) subsector (accounting for 11% of the total foodservice sales in 2018), convenience stores recorded the highest sales of US$14.8 billion in 2018, followed by bakery outlets (US$7.9 billion). These top two outlets accounted for 75.4% of the total sales within the retail subsector (US$30.1 billion). Both outlets grew at a CAGR of 0.8% and 0.9%, respectively from 2015 to 2018 and are forecast to grow at a CAGR of 0.3% from 2019 to 2022.
Within the accommodation subsector (accounting for 9.1% of the total foodservice sales in 2018), hotels & motels recorded the highest sales of US$17.2 billion in 2018, followed by guest house outlet (US$2.3 billion). These top two outlets accounted for 78.6% of the total sales within the accommodation subsector (US$24.9 billion). Both outlets grew at a CAGR of 0.8% and 0.6%, respectively from 2015 to 2018 and are forecast to grow at a CAGR of 0.3% and 0.2%, respectively from 2019 to 2022.
Within the workplace subsector (accounting for 5.7% of the total foodservice sales in 2018), industrial outlet recorded the highest sales of US$10.1 billion in 2018, followed by government outlet (US$3.5 billion). These top two outlets accounted for 87.1% of the total sales within the workplace subsector (US$15.8 billion). Both outlets grew at a CAGR of 0.3% and 0.7%, respectively from 2015 to 2018 and are forecast to grow at a CAGR of 0.1% and 0.2%, respectively from 2019 to 2022.
|Subsector||Outlet||2015||2018||CAGR* % 2015-2018||2019||2022||CAGR* % 2019-2022|
|Accommodation||Bed and breakfast||1,697.2||1,713.3||0.2||1,720.3||1,746.5||0.2|
|Hotel and motel||16,699.2||17,221.4||0.8||17,346.1||17,614.7||0.3|
|Mobile operator||Other mobile||223.1||231.9||1.0||233.3||237.1||0.3|
|Pub, club and bar||Bar||15,028.4||15,232.5||0.3||15,271.5||15,357.2||0.1|
|Private members club||1,552.2||1,589.9||0.6||1,599.1||1,618.7||0.2|
|Coffee and tea shop||11,120.3||11,583.8||1.0||11,674.3||11,883.2||0.3|
|Ice cream parlour||2,161.6||2,221.9||0.7||2,235.4||2,266.0||0.2|
|Garden and home improvement centres||136.6||140.3||0.7||141.1||142.9||0.2|
|Service station forecourt||1,486.9||1,483.1||−0.1||1,482.4||1,480.7||0.0|
|Supermarket and hypermarket||4,398.5||4,495.0||0.5||4,511.4||4,551.8||0.2|
Source: GlobalData, 2019
*CAGR: Compound Annual Growth Rate
Foodservice: chain franchises versus independent operators
In 2018, independent consumer foodservice operators continued to face challenges, resulting from an aging population, shortfalls in the workforce and consumers' growing demand for high-quality products at a low price. This led to a decline of independent operators across most outlets in 2018.Footnote 2
Despite the faster growth among the chain franchises, within the restaurant subsector, the independent restaurant sales accounted for 53.7% of the total sales, while chain restaurants accounted for 46.3% in 2018. Within the accommodation sector, independent sales accounted for 70.7% of the total sales, while chain accommodation sales accounted for 29.3%. Within the pub, club & bar subsector, independent sales accounted for 80.7% of the total sales while chain franchise sales accounted for 19.3%. Independent operators had more value sales than chain operators in all subsectors, except in the on-trade retail subsector (independent accounting for 31.5%; chain accounting for 68.5%)
The growth for all subsectors in both chain franchises and independent operators was very slow with CAGRs ranging from 0.3% to 1.1% between 2015 and 2018. The CAGR is expected to continue to be marginal over the 2019 to 2022 period.
|Chain vs Independent||Subsector||2015||2018||CAGR* % 2015-2018||2019||2022||CAGR* % 2019-2022|
|Pub, club and bar||9,924.2||10,060.2||0.3||10,087.3||10,148.0||0.2|
|Subtotal for chain||101,718.7||105,483.7||0.9||106,235.8||107,975.1||0.4|
|Pub, club and bar||41,037.0||42,007.1||0.6||42,189.1||42,598.2||0.2|
|Subtotal for independent||145,423.5||150,099.1||0.8||151,015.3||153,072.7||0.3|
|Subtotal for unspecified||18,611.3||19,002.9||0.5||19,082.4||19,270.7||0.2|
Source: GlobalData, 2019
*CAGR: Compound Annual Growth Rate
Dine-in vs takeaway
In terms of Japan's sales value in foodservice in 2018, dine-in channels recorded US$228.6 billion, accounting for 83.3% share, while take-away recorded US$45.9 billion, accounting for 16.7% share. Within the take-away sub-channel, collection take-away reached US$37.5 billion, representing 13.6% share while delivery take-away reached US$8.5 billion, representing 3.1% share. Both dine-in and take-away grew at CAGRs of 0.8% and 1.1% from 2015 to 2018. It is forecasted that delivery takeaway will reach the highest CAGR of 0.9% within both the dine-in and take-away channels from 2019 to 2022.
|Channel||Sub-channel||2015||2018||Share % 2018||CAGR* % 2015-2018||2019||2022||CAGR* % 2019-2022|
|Subtotal total for take-away||44.1||45.9||16.7||1.1||46.4||47.4||0.6|
Source: GlobalData, 2019
*CAGR: Compound Annual Growth Rate
Top 10 foodservice companies in Japan
7-Eleven was the top foodservice company with sales of US$6 billion in 2017, which accounts for 2.7% share of the foodservice market in Japan. It was followed by McDonalds (US$4.6 billion), Lawson, Inc. (US$4.2 billion), FamilyMart (US$2.2 billion) and Gusto (US$1.8 billion).
Offering convenience services remain an important option for busy consumers. Limited-service restaurants within chained convenience stores is the largest category by value in Japan. The top consumer foodservice players, 7-Eleven, Lawson and FamilyMart, are all highly active in their limited-service restaurant offerings.
7-Eleven is the largest conbini chain (small retail store that is open long hours and typically sells staple groceries, snacks, and beverages). There are nearly 20,000 locations in Japan and has a reputation of having the best food options. Its products regularly have top conbini food rankings with its fresh-ground coffee and pre-packaged breads being particularly popular. Lawson's most popular food item is fried chicken, which is cooked on-site and sold in the hot foods section near the registers. FamilyMart's bread and pastries are the most popular food items there. Footnote 4
McDonald's is Japan's largest QSR operator by revenue and focuses on burgers, sides and fried chicken options. Some locally influenced products include burgers with Japanese sauces and a greater variety of seasonally changing seafood-based burger dishes. McDonalds Japan is one of the key markets for the McCafé line of coffee beverages and baked goods, with a majority of McDonalds outlets serving McCafé items throughout the country. Many locations have a separate McCafé area with more comfortable seating and a range of baked products.
In general smaller portions / smaller packaging are more common in the Japanese foodservice industry, due to the aging population, the smaller household size, and limited storage / pantry space at home and restaurant.
|Company||US$ million||Share %|
|Lawson, Inc. - Overall||4,173.3||1.8|
Source: GlobalData, 2019
Japan has one of world's most developed food supply chains. Individual restaurants tend to buy food at nearby fresh food markets, super markets, and/or retail stores. Chain restaurants tend to procure food from food service industry wholesalers who offer combined shipment/delivery of a large variety of foods and restaurant business materials. Some of these wholesalers import food directly from foreign countries, but most of them buy imported foods through trading houses, which function as legal importers of the products and carry out a variety of functions, including: handling documentation, clearing customs, testing, warehousing, and financing the inventory.
Some "cash and carry" retailers, including wholesale clubs such as COSTCO and METRO, are popular sources for food products among smaller-sized food service operators. The biggest is Gyomu Super (business supermarket) owned by a local company, Kobe Bussan, which has a total of 777 outlets. Additionally, regional food wholesalers, have formed strategic purchasing alliances and have opened cash & carry outlets. Bulk packed meat, seafood, fresh produce, coffee, seasonings/condiments, wine, cheese, frozen vegetables and frozen baked items are hot selling food products at these outlets.
Large general trading companies (such as Mitsubishi, Marubeni, Mitsui, Itochu, etc.) have many divisions specializing in a wide variety of imported food products, while small importers tend to specialize in a limited line of high-value items. The majority of large food service operators utilize trading companies or use designated distribution centers rather than wholesalers, though some import products directly. Even then, they often contract supply chain operations including import processing, inventory management, and delivery.
HRI-focused (Hotel, Restaurant, Institutional) wholesalers are consolidating. In order to add value, most large wholesalers own their own distribution trucks and focus on carrying broad product lines that can efficiently provide small food service operators or small chains with a one-stop service. Some wholesalers are now also beginning to import products directly to reduce costs further.Footnote 5
Opportunities for Canada
The benefits of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP)
The CPTPP gives Canadian agriculture and agri-food products preferential market access to key export markets, including Japan. Under the agreement, tariffs will be eliminated or reduced on a wide range of Canadian exports for the agricultural sector, including meat, grains, pulses, maple syrup, wines and spirits, seafood, and other agri-food products.
Japan has eliminated tariffs on close to 32% of tariff lines on agriculture and agri-food products upon entry into force on December 30th, 2018. A further 9% of tariff lines will provide preferential tariff treatment through permanent quotas and country-specific quotas for Canada. The remaining tariff lines will provide tariff elimination or reductions over a period of up to 20 years, or reductions of the in-quota or out-of-quota tariffs. Read the Global Affairs Canada overview of the CPTPP and Canada's agriculture and agri-food sector for more information.
One of the first steps before entering the market is to determine whether or not a product is authorized for sale in Japan. There could be restrictions due to phytosanitary or food safety related concerns that can prevent a product from being imported. Products must meet Japanese regulations for food ingredients, especially with regard to food additives.
Exporters are strongly recommended to work with the local import agent, distributor, and the end-user to make sure the products are in compliance with Japanese regulations and all proper documentation has been completed. For more information, please consult the Exporting food out of Canada (Canadian Food Inspection Agency), Step-by-Step Guide to Exporting - Step 6 - Opening the door: entering your target market (The Canadian Trade Commissioner Service) and Standards and Regulations (Japan External trade Organization).
Exporters should also determine the import classification and tariff rate for products. The Tariff Finder tool can assist exporters in determining tariff information for specific products and countries where Canada has a free trade agreement. Additionally, Japan Customs has a website for requesting an advance ruling on tariff classifications, which is available to importers and related parties.
FOODEX Japan is the largest food and beverage show in Asia, and is an important annual event for Canadian exporters as it brings in key buyers from Japan and Asia. The 2019 show attracted 3,316 exhibitors coming from 94 countries with 85,000 visitors (Source: Japan Management Association).
FOODEX is one of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada's flagship trade shows, with customizable turn-key booths and streamlined access to financial support via the Canada Pavilion Program.
It is worth noting that CanExport provides funding to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to reach export markets and execute strategic marketing projects such as participation in trade shows. Interested Canadian SMEs are encouraged to apply for this funding. If you have questions about exporting your agriculture or food products, or are looking for support, please contact the Market Access Secretariat, Agri-food and Agriculture Canada at email@example.com.
Japan is the third-largest economy in the world, providing opportunities for Canadian exporters, especially those interested in a major consumer foodservice market.
The Japanese consumer foodservice industry reached sales of US$274.6 billion in 2018. Despite a decreasing population, the growing number of single-households, busy working people and overseas visitors will increase the overall demand for food prepared by the foodservice sector.
The Japanese consumer foodservice sector is forecasted to grow marginally and it remains a fractioned industry. The increasing aging population in Japan will also change the Japanese consumer profile, demanding healthier, organic and better-for-you products in food establishments. With the CPTPP in force, there will be increased opportunities for Canadian companies with unique, healthy, and high quality food ingredients and products to supply into the Japanese food service industry and consumers.
For more Information
International Trade Commissioners can provide Canadian industry with on-the-ground expertise regarding market potential, current conditions and local business contacts, and are an excellent point of contact for export advice.
For additional intelligence on this and other markets, the complete library of Global Analysis reports can be found on the International agri-food market intelligence page, arranged by region.
For additional information on Food and Hotel China 2019, FOODEX Japan 2020, Food and Hotel Asia 2020, please contact:
Ben Berry, Deputy Director
Trade Show Strategy and Delivery
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
- Canadian Food Inspection Agency: Exporting food out of Canada
- CanExport: Funding that helps your company grow into global markets, 2019
- Euromonitor International. Consumer Foodservice in Japan, 2019
- Nomura, Mona, Every Amazing Thing You've Heard About Japanese Convenience Stores Is True (24/7 Snacking)
- GlobalData, 2019
- GlobalData: Japan – The Future of Foodservice to 2021, 2018
- Japan Customs: Advance Ruling on Classification
- Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO): Standards and Regulations;
- Japan Management Association: FOODEX JAPAN 2019 Show Report
- Overseas Visitors to Japan in 2018 Top 31 Million, January, 2019. Accessed Nippon.com on October 1, 2019
- The Canadian Trade Commissioner Service: Market Facts – China; Step-by-Step Guide to Exporting – Step 6 – Opening the door: entering your target market
- USDA Foreign Agricultural Service: Japan: Food Service - Hotel Restaurant Institutional, October, 2018
Customized Report Service – The mozzarella cheese market in Canada and the United States
Global Analysis Report
Prepared by: Hongli Wang, Market Analyst
© Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada, represented by the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food (2019).
All photographs reproduced in this publication are used by permission of the rights holders.
All images, unless otherwise noted, are copyright Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada.
To join our distribution list or to suggest additional report topics or markets, please contact:Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Global Analysis
1341 Baseline Road, Tower 5, 3rd floor
Canada, K1A 0C5
The Government of Canada has prepared this report based on primary and secondary sources of information. Although every effort has been made to ensure that the information is accurate, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) assumes no liability for any actions taken based on the information contained herein.
Reproduction or redistribution of this document, in whole or in part, must include acknowledgement of agriculture and agri-food Canada as the owner of the copyright in the document, through a reference citing AAFC, the title of the document and the year. Where the reproduction or redistribution includes data from this document, it must also include an acknowledgement of the specific data source(s), as noted in this document.
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada provides this document and other report services to agriculture and food industry clients free of charge.
Report a problem on this page
- Date modified: