Health Foods and Drinks in Japan
This article explains modern health and nutrition trends in Japan including products produced by major companies, products being purchased by Japanese consumers, and changed in the Japanese attitude towards mass-produced foods and the use of preservatives.
The Japanese Diet
The traditional Japanese diet has long been considered one of the healthiest in the world. Diet is also thought to be one of the main reasons why Japanese people have one of the longest life expectancies in the world (about 84 years). However, the Japanese diet is becoming increasingly westernized. Large corporate fast food chains have become more abundant and are often the most convenient option for busy Japanese business people for whom it is difficult to find time to prepare their own meals and get proper nutrition.
Convenience Store Food is Changing
Convenience stores are another quick and easy food source for many people. In recent years, they have taken notice of the nutritional deficits of Japanese people and have started making changes their bento and other hot food offerings to help people meet dietary needs. 7-Eleven began placing stickers on bento meals and onigiri that offer at least half a days worth of the daily recommended serving of vegetables and other convenience chains started to follow suit. Another trendsetter was FamilyMart which started using whole wheat flour in the bread used for its sandwiches. It also started offering fried chicken using chicken breast, a leaner cut than the popular thigh meat.
Perhaps in response to the natural and organic foods movements, convenience store operators have also begun to cease the use of artificial yeast, preservatives, food coloring, and even the use of phosphate which is commonly used to soften ham. Along with the changes in ingredients and healthy food practices, many convenience stores have rebranded their products to change the “unhealthy junk-food” image that is sometimes associated with convenience store food.
Other Corporate Responses to Dietary Trends
Health and nutrition-oriented food companies have also taken notice of a spike in popularity in the health and nutrition markets. Products that used to only be available in specialty shops have become readily available in convenience stores. Companies have even developed new items that meet the different dietary and nutritional needs of consumers. In many cases, these products come in the form of small drinkable items that can be consumed quickly so the consumer to go about their busy day. Energy and vitamin can be found in liquid and drinkable yogurt or jelly forms.
Some products have specific types of consumers in mind. There are smoothies in squeezable packages that are meant to function as meal replacements. The packages for these products often show phrases like, “Breakfast in 10 seconds!” or “2 banana’s worth of energy.” There are even products that people can drink before consuming alcohol to prevent hangovers (or drink to treat a hangover). High-protein and protein-fortified foods and drinks are also becoming increasingly common on convenience store shelves and often show the protein content in large print on the front of the label.
What This Means for You
With the increasing variety of products becoming readily available at the convenience store and other places, it is becoming easier for people to address their dietary and nutritional needs with a simple visit to the convenience store. This is especially “convenient” for those with a busy schedule. If the use of preservatives or other harmful chemicals is your concern, it is becoming increasingly easier to find these types of products as well, not just at the convenience store, but also at regular grocery stores. So before going for that quick meal at the nearest fast food chain, think about one of these options first.