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Frugal consumers, higher costs take fizz out of Japan's food stocks

40 Comments
By Ayai Tomisawa

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40 Comments
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Some eco-friendly packaging in that photo, eh?

10 ( +10 / -0 )

Good point jcapan! The producers should start thinking about internal excess cost like packaging before simply hiking the product price. I would like to see a study of what percentage of the retail price goes to packaging.

11 ( +11 / -0 )

Cheap oil and a lack of inflation in a Japan mean higher food prices?

Something doesn’t add up here!

10 ( +11 / -1 )

Japanese don't have a deflationary mindset, they have a realistic one. If salaries and wages do not increase enough to keep up with other costs, of course people don't want to pay more for things. If the two keep up then people with complain about it, but they will still buy. Why can't they get that into their fat thick skulls!

12 ( +12 / -0 )

I like Japanese packages. It is the Japanese culture. I do not like brown bags.

-26 ( +1 / -27 )

Supermarkets in Japan aren’t economical. They charge a high price for the smallest viable product they can get away with. There’s no value in buying bulk here either. Japan completely misses the point of supermarkets.

20 ( +20 / -0 )

jcapanToday, “Some eco-friendly packaging in that photo, eh?”

The items in that photo are specially packaged gift items for the winter gift giving season (oseibo) which have to durable enough to withstand the package delivery system (postal or takuhai deliverers). They are not the ordinarily packaged supermarket items. This is akin to, for instance, n the USA showing a photo of Christmas presents wrapped in gift paper and ribbons and adorned with balloons and whatnot, to illustrate supermarket food.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

At the end of the day, raising the cost and using new packaging won’t fix the underlying problem. That issue is that people simply are not able to afford the items out there. Inflation beating rising income. When the average income has shrunk during the past 2 years and the cost of items are rising, purchasing power is diminishing at a rapid pace.

10 ( +10 / -0 )

American style supermarket SEIYU is near bankruptcy and rumored to get out of Japan. SEIYU is under Wallmart. I do not like SEIYU. It is like a warehouse. No joy of shopping.

-17 ( +0 / -17 )

I do not like brown bags

Your prerogative; however, drinking out of them can't be all that bad? It's an ecofriendly cooler for your beverage of choice.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Schopenhauer,"No joy of shopping."

At least at Seiyu they play some decenti music while you wander down the aisles unlike Ito Yokado which plays a dread high-pitched "iirashaimasei" on a loop and leaves you feeling like you've just visited a lunatic asylum by the time you leave.

10 ( +10 / -0 )

Educator60, I married into a clinic family and we get an absolute ton of oseibo & ochuugen so trust that I understand the distinction. I still have boxes of beer from NY’s.

I also would extend you the credit for knowing that packing here is insane even for routine groceries—individually wrapped cookies, crackers 6 to a pack, bananas in plastic, apples in individual bras. Ikari supaa in my area quite literally triple bags your purchase unless you bludgeon the bagger. Obviously this adds to already overpriced items in Japan’s closed market as does legendary staffing inefficiency.

But on the plus side consumers like Schopenhauer will take comfort from all that detritus someday when the biosphere collapses.

8 ( +9 / -1 )

Educator - you are correct. They are gift products.

But just go into any supermarket and you'll find endless examples of over-wrapping of ordinary goods.

The 8 pieces of the ever-popular cake "Bermkuchen" my wife bought yesterday came all individually packaged in plastic, sitting on a plastic tray and finally wrapped in an outer plastic bag.

Mottainai!!!

And usually, daily goods wrapping, whether paper, carboard or plastic is thick and colorful.

As dbsaiya said - how much of the cost of a product is impacted by packaging?

There's a Big Dan-sha-ri movement in Japan to reduce unecessary clutter, unecessary goods and unecssary costs to make life leaner, simpler and more affordable.

Production / Marketing / Retail didn't get the message.

10 ( +10 / -0 )

I like Japanese packages. It is the Japanese culture. I do not like brown bags.'

Why not....? Brown bags are very much Japanese culture too....just check with any LDP politician or J Inc bigwig.:)

15 ( +16 / -1 )

Schopenhauer - I hear you.

I also enjoy shopping. I like looking at electronic goods, furniture, clothes, specialty foods, DIY stuff etc.

But when it comes to buying survival items - milk, vegies, fish, shoyu, yoghurt, fruit, etc it's not usually an overwhelming experience for me.

Kinda, In - Quick Look Around - Pick up Stuff - Register - Out.

Seiyu Super is for cheap efficiency. K's Denki is for slow perusal.

But I guess some people get true enjoyment outa lingering lovingly and longingly over the miso for example.

And re the topic and the prevailing higher food costs - My city's main super chain has any number of discount days a month - Seniors Day, 5% discount days, 5 X Points Days etc, etc, and they are packed. People cram & jostle to save a handful of ¥. Spend ¥10,000 and save ¥500. That's how critical it is for millions of ordinary people in Japan. Unfortunately Govt Inc has no understanding what it's like to scavenge for cheap food to make ends meet.

It is not deflationary mindset as MarkX stated, but a Realistic mindset.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

A stock market system in a collapsing population isn't going to last

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Has anyone noticed the shrink-rays being used on food items? Large-size Meiji yogurt used to be filled to 1cm from the top. Now it's filled to 3cm from the top. I've noticed a lot of items like that. Also noticed odd weights for items. For example, a package of almonds weighing 91 grams (used to be 100 grams).

13 ( +13 / -0 )

This is all really simple folks, the two biggest issues/reasons for this are:

Demographics, the population is falling & WONT recover, more likely to spiral downwards at increasing rates

Two, wages, as most here know, wages have been stagnant at BEST, but for far too many their wages are/have been in decline for at least 20yrs now & precious little hope of ever reversing the trend

SO, this results in fewer marriages, fewer babies, families on SUPER TIGHT budgets, so little spending on consumer goods & then most can only afford CHEAP CRAP, which means in ends up in the landfill/incinerator in short order & then repeat

Again, sadly this is going to get WORSE over time! The powers that be CLEARLY just don't give a damn! People in Japan need to realize that politicians & big biz treat them like GARBAGE

11 ( +11 / -0 )

From last summer, Walmart was looking to dump Seiyu....and get into India and China.....not sure whether the ink is dry on the divorce papers, yet.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Jcapan, browny,

You needn’t waste your breath convincing me there’s too much packaging used on ordinary products. I’ve been refusing plastic shopping bags and looking for products with the least packaging since the late 1960s. I was merely pointing out that that particular photo and comments on it are not really germane to the article.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Almost as dismaying as having to pay more for less at the supermarket is reading articles like this one which cheer for Japan, Inc. and against the working-class consumer in every paragraph.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Educator - thanks.

I did acknowledge your comment as correct re "gift foods".

I wasn't wasting my breath trying to "convince" anyone. Merely stating the fact that over-packaging is ubiquitous.

And as for "Gift Goods" - well they are arguably also overpackaged way, way beyond the necessary margin.

Witness the "omiyage" stuff on sale at any highway service area. I guess most of these goods are transported and delivered in person by the purchaser to the recipients. Like - how much protection do 10 manju need? How much inner wrapping, outer wrapping and then some more for simple goods to be soon eaten?

I believe most careful analysists of the "wrapping world" in Japan, would concede that regardless of the nature of the goods (Special gifts or the Mundane), there is simply too much packaging.

And I'm not puffing.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Whay deflation price ,price inflation is a western is a western stupidity to gain money for the wealth .You should be maintain price constant then labour cost will be constant the rest will fall into .In the past this are the norm

.But after those so call investor of stock and fund come in everything skyrocket .We should go back the the stability no increase in price .Those artificially jack up price and cost to give illusion of growth ultimately cost the average citizen an unbearable living cost not living standard .No one ever changllege those s co western economist that we can have price and cost of living constant still can growth .If this happens hose guy will out of job and no inflation will be boring for them .

0 ( +3 / -3 )

Abenomics in action

3 ( +3 / -0 )

For your Veg, breads and meats, do your shopping around 21.30 Daily. Discounts of up to 50% can be sourced. When driving through farming areas look for buy direct stalls. Just a few tip for those who are on struggle street. I take it, no on this site will take up my advice because there is no one earning a minimum wage. looking at the majority of the comments, they are on packaging. No real good advice on how to bargain hunt, only soy boy dream green comment.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

We gonna even have less money once that 10 percent tax kicks in!

5 ( +5 / -0 )

They are not alone in their plight. Every industry in Japan is suffering under Abenomics. The farmers have enjoyed a long history of protectionism from he J-Gov paying them not to produce, but the J-Gov have reduced their subsidies and opened up the import market with the TPP, so now the farmers have to work for a living and are forced to increase their prices.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

As the effects of demographic decline and economic inertia become increasingly apparent, the masses are responding to the erosion of their wealth in predictable ways. Hunkering down, tightening the purse strings, shedding their erstwhile aversion to trawling for 半額bargains at supermarkets; even patronizing リサイクル shops where they once wouldn’t have even seen dead at.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

@oyatoi:

I agree but it is astounding how many Japanese I talk to in Tokyo going overseas several times a year. Also, I regularly speak to 30-40 year old single Japanese woman and based on their family situation of being an only child or 1 other sibling they stand to inherit several hundred thousand dollars when their parents pass. There is going to be a massive transfer of wealth to middle aged Japanese in the next 2 decades that may support higher spending even with the government tax bite.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

All this is going to do is hurt the consumer as there is no such thing as infinite profits.

Packaging needs to be cut back.

There needs to be a system managing the weights and measures to prevent shady company from sheisting consumers on product contents.

In the USA the snack companies cheat by filling potato chip bags with air and we have the same problem with shady companies reducing the toppings and contents but advertising the same weight.

They are always going to say it's about the shipping costs. That is only tied to the fuel and packaging price so they need to reduce the packaging to what is really needed.

I read a previous post that there is this assumption that people are going to inherit money. What does that have to do with purchasing right now. You can't even guarantee that money will exist. Those users may move away or simply stop buying those items.

Japan needs to make sure that these companies are regulated or the consumer is going to lose out. Even fast food places are already charging too much for their products.

Again there is no such thing as infinite profits.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

The shrinking sizes/portions is called shrinkflation or stealth price increasing. Japan has been doing this for years and have now reached the tipping point where they can’t physically reduce portions any further, as it’s far from stealthy and downright obvious and getting ridiculous.

Same goes for Europe who are struggling and Brexit will make it worse...

https://images.huffingtonpost.com/2017-06-18-1497829316-7698626-img_d6f602c1bdbf2a7769358c1378568191241864.jpg

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Japan's shrinkflation is how they respond to a worsening economy!

2 ( +2 / -0 )

In the finest tradition of 痩せ我慢 stoicism, microsize me!

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=nOWQjJwB8AM

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@cwhite

Shrinkflation. Thank you.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Shrinkflation is a general strategy not peculiar to Japan. The same pattern has been described in US and UK newspapers under different terminlogy including "stealth downsizing."

People wanting volume discounts can get them at Carrefour and Hanamasa as well as a number of chains that sell primarily to commercial customers but allow the general public to make purchases as well. I do much of my own shopping at Hanamasa.

I find the notion that prices are singularly high in Japan rather difficult to understand. My comparative reference for Japan (Tokyo) is Britain (London). Meat and dairy products are less expensive in the UK, but just about everything else is about the same price or notably more expensive.

Since I have a separate UK income and travel regularly to Britain, my knowledge of prices is current and not influenced by exchange rates.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Bullfighter, while the "shrinkflation" strategy is hardly unique to Japan, what seems particularly egregious about how it is implemented in Japan is that the government and its lapdog media present it as somehow desirable for the people, and the people barely protest. In the UK, inflation, devaluation of the currency, and the slow impoverishment of the working classes is met with the disgust, scorn and mockery it deserves.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

My first awareness of shrinkflation in Japan occurred more than 10 years ago when my favorite kit kat package shifted from a typical 5 stick pack to two individually smaller packs of 2 bars each.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Has anyone charted the decline of the New Year gift bag sales over the years ?

Personally, when I go Shopping, I spend time to cycle between several shops in my area for basics, simply to assess who's got the best price for what I wish to buy. The savings are quite big, for example on a Jar of coffee I can save up to 500 yen (for the same product). Convenience Stores are generally the most expensive +30yen on a bottle of their own brand water, and milk, but thereagain you have to expect to pay for the "convenience". Some of the smaller grocery stores can actually undercut the larger retailers from time to time - I dont know how, but, for example, if making gyoza I can save 100 yen per bundle of ne-la simply by checking the store, and if you dont care about the pristine shape of your vegetables, then some stores sell them quite cheaply. Times are changing in Japan, however... I think that the local stores have some sort of collusion within the area, because these savings shift around from store to store. If you're stuck in an area with just one mega store, then you're stuck.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@Bullfighter

You need to look harder mate!

Aldi and Lidl have made shopping a lot cheaper and Tesco’s discounted food is almost free in comparison with Japan where the maximum discount is 50%, after which the food is trashed!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The JAPANGOV is also holding back on water allocation to rice farmer in Iwate. There say there not enough water to start crop on time. GOV Bean counters have already allow for a poor harvest which means the GOV don't hand out has much money to a good crop.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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