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Japan “unshackles” vegan market with new packaging labeling amid regional health boom

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The Japanese government is introducing new labeling legislation for plant-based food packaging amid efforts to ease restrictions and increase consumer transparency. 

In a press conference, government minister Taro Kono claimed a lack of guidelines is hindering the growth of the country’s increasingly lucrative plant-based market, and a new base of labeling legislation would “unshackle” its potential. 

 

Among Kono’s statements were assurances that any plant-based labeling “won’t be a problem if the expression is not misleading. To be more specific, if the words such as ‘soy meat’ and ‘not meat’ are written together, there is no problem.”

Additionally, products labeled as “100% plant-based will need to confirm whether it is derived from plants including food additives.” 

The stipulations follow legal battles in the EU, which last year saw the meat industry attempt to push legislation on vegan alternative F&B producers that would remove their right to use words like “sausage” or “burger” on their packaging. 

The European Vegetarian unio recently called on the European Commission to harmonize vegetarian and vegan food labeling rules. The renewed urgency comes as it has been an entire decade since the Food Information to Consumers Regulation was enacted.

Japan’s health food expansion 
The new guidelines seek to aid consumers and industry alike in expanding the plant-based sector, as Japan sees a boom in interest in healthy foods following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

A host of plant-based releases looking to meet this demand have hit the market recently, including Tokyo-based Next Meat, which this year announced it would open an environmentally responsible production facility next summer. Next Meats is building a alternative protein factory and R&D lab in Japan.

Dubbed the Next Factory, it will be built in Niigata, Japan, promising to be a “one-stop hub” dedicated to alternative protein products and will include everything from an R&D lab to the production line.

The founders aim to stabilize the global supply chain of Next Meats products while lowering retail costs and strengthening the company’s R&D capacities. 

The company also this year unveiled vegan Japanese yakiniku grilled meat in Singapore. At the same time, peanut-based chicken from Haofood debuted in Chinese and Indonesian recipes through various partnerships in Shanghainese foodservice. 

Retail sales of meat alternatives in Asia-Pacific grew to an estimated US$1 billion in 2020, according to Innova Market Insights, with a projected CAGR of 9.1% by value and 8.65% by volume forecasted for the period 2019-2022.

The market researcher has moreover highlighted this as a global trend driven primarily by environmental concerns. The market researcher pegged “Shared Planet” as its Top Ten Trends for 2022, underscoring that consumers now rank planetary health as their number one concern, overtaking personal health, which has been the top priority in recent years.

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