Finnish healthy and premium food products have a lot of opportunities in Japan

EPA-agreement natural-food premium-alcohol premium food Healthy-food Japan
Junior Advisor
Inka-Liisa Häkälä
Japanese continuing market trend for healthy and natural foods combined with the newly established EPA EU-JAPAN Economic Partnership Agreement presents huge opportunities for Finnish healthy, natural and premium food products.

Aging population and growing number of health conscious consumers are also increasingly looking for healthy natural foods with high nutritional values. Especially different products with high protein content have gained popularity with growing interest on sports and muscle building. More consumers are also looking for more vegetarian-based options for protein. Following the trend for healthy foods, sales of functional foods have been on a steady rise, market reaching to 5.15 billion euros in 2017.

Last trend in Japanese food markets is luxury and brand story. With record high labor shortage and following rising bonuses in 2018, more and more consumers can focus also their food consumption to luxury brands that have stories that match their own personal values, and help to escape the daily hassle of work and busy cities. Following this trend, many life style shops that had previously been selling only design and clothing items are starting to stock small luxury & easily storable food items that fit their brand story.

Small packaging sizes have always been popular in Japan, but the need is increasing with an aging population that is to a growing degree living alone. Small packaging sizes that can be used for 1 person for 1 meal or serving are increasing their popularity.

Companies and sectors benefitting from this opportunity

Products with good potential include:

Natural healthy, organic and functional food products which are either included in EPA or where bilateral agreement exists between Finland and Japan

  • Cheese - Under the EU-Japan EPA the tariffs on hard cheeses such as Cheddar and Gouda will be completely phased out on a period of 16 years
  • Pork - Under the EU-Japan EPA tariffs will become 50JPY/kg and the ad valorem tax will become tax free after the 10 years tariff reduction period.
  • Poultry - Importing of Finnish poultry to Japan has been accepted since Minister Tiilikainen's visit in March, 2017.
  • Berry-based products and berry-related ingredients as well as frozen and fresh berries
  • Cereals and other oat-based products
  • Chocolate confectionery
    • Tariffs rate will gradually decreased by EPA agreement
    • Chocola Finland campaign organized by Business Finland has been very popular for many years and more people are becoming aware of Finnish chocolate
    • Retailers are especially looking for specialty chocolates such as organic & free trade and those that include special, preferably "Finnish style" ingredients like berries etc.

Alcoholic and non-alcoholic premium beverages

  • Japan like the rest of the world is now experiencing a boom for craft gin, providing opportunities for new unique premium products in hard liquor category
  • Berry juice is very popular in Japan, but current alternatives in the market come mainly from Russia and Canada. There is a clear need for more premium alternatives containing "super food" tier berries and premium non-alcoholic beverages that can replace sparkling wine etc. in festive situations to accommodate for the Japanese trend of lowering overall alcohol consumption

Salmon trout (non-processed) and other fish products

  • "Nordic" salmon is famous in Japan and Japanese connect Finland and salmon. The salmon in the market is however just coming from Norway
  • Tariffs will be eliminated by EPA agreement
  • Japan has a strong culture for consuming different kinds of fish products. Besides salmon, many retailers are interested in new innovative and nicely designed products that can be stored in room temperatures

Foods that can be stored in room temperature and include exotic Finnish ingredients from Finnish forest, sea and lakes

Team Finland activities available for Finnish companies

Business Finland Food from Finland has had an active year in Japan in 2018, and 2019 will be even busier with the celebrations for Finland-Japan diplomatic relationship 100 years and Moomin Park creating a growing demand from various retailers to offer consumers with new exiting products. Business Finland is working with various retailers to introduce Finnish products for their Finland fairs, organizing buyer meetings for Japanese buyers with Finnish companies and arranging different consumer campaigns.

Activities in 2019 include:

  • Christmas drinks from Finland campaign is promoting Finnish craft beer and cider in Japanese markets already in many consecutive years and these match to the above mentioned trend for high class premium beverages
  • Chocolat Finland campaign organized by Business Finland has been very popular for many years and more people are becoming aware of Finnish chocolate
  • Matsuya Ginza and Hankyu Umeda department store campaigns in large Japanese department stores will promote Finnish food products in May and June 2019. Food from Finland introduces Finnish products and gives advice for promotional content for the department stores
  • FoodEx exhibition: FoodEx is the largest B2B food industry fair in the whole Asia. Food from Finland organizes a Finland –pavilion open to Finnish companies. This is an excellent event to meet potential customers and is supported by other networking vents during the week organized by Business Finland.

Contact information:

  • Inka-Liisa Häkälä, Advisor, inka-liisa.hakala (at )
  • Masahiro Kimura, Senior Advisor, masahiro.kimura (at) 

Background information

EU-JAPAN Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) is opening Japanese Food market

  • EU-Japan EPA will enter into force on February 1, 2019. The agreement will make special treatment of Tariff system and GI (Geographical Indication) for Major Food items between EU and Japan. Finland as a part of EU countries can get this advantages made by EPA.
  • EPA will remove tariff barriers immediately or with a transition time for many major foods like Cheese, Salmon/Trout, Pork, Chicken, Chocolate, Sweet Biscuit, Candies, Macaroni, and Spaghetti etc. The agreement does not disable all trade barriers, but the special treatment for EU countries for Tariff system and GI (Geographical Indication) agreement will give a strong advantage to products produced in EU. Finnish food industry companies should fully utilize the new opportunities raising from the agreement.
  • More detailed report regarding EPA, EU Japan EPA helpdesk (please check for especially special webinars on different food product categories exports under EPA) or requested from Business Finland Japan.

Poultry certification for Finnish producers

  • The trade gate of poultry (bird's) meat export from Finland to Japan was opened in March, 2017. In addition, Brazil's share (75-80% of imports in Japanese market) expected to drop due to the meat scandal. And importers need to find new sources, Finland is seen as a clean and safe country. This situation should be clear signal for business opportunities of Finnish chicken meat industry.
  • The trade gate of poultry (bird's) meat export from Finland to Japan was opened in March, 2017. Poultry is defined as chicken, quail, turkey, ostrich, guinea fowl, pheasant and birds classified into Anseriformes order (such as duck and goose). Allowed products are meat, bone, fat, blood, skin, tendon and viscera of poultry and their products. It's good to note that Japanese eat variety of chicken parts typically not used in Finland like the skin and cartilage. In addition, Brazil's share (75-80% of imports in Japanese market) expected to drop due to the meat scandal. And importers need to find new sources, Finland is seen as a clean and safe country. This situation should be clear signal for business opportunities of Finnish chicken meat industry.
  • Japanese total import volume of chicken meat has been around 500 000 ton.
  • More detailed report regarding poultry certification can be requested from Business Finland Japan.

EPA brings a market opportunity for cheese

Cheese exports from EU to Japan have traditionally suffered from high tariff rates (up to 29.8%). Under EPA, these tariffs will gradually be phased out to become zero for unlimited quantities as from 1 April 2033. The degreases in tariffs make European cheeses much more appealing to Japanese buyers and consumers from the start. EPA also includes free tariff quotas for soft cheese and other dairy products, which can be applied by importers to make the prizing more affordable already from 2019. More detailed information on EPA regarding cheese  

Opportunity for new premium beverages

As the total consumption of alcohol per capita is decreasing, three important trends open possibilities for Finnish premium beverages.

  1. Young people have a tendency to drink less beer and willingness to try new types of alcohol. This can be a good change for new branded and high-end alcoholic beverages to gain popularity in Japan. Alcohol is increasingly being consumed together with food, which makes offering different kinds of food & alcohol pairings increasingly more attractive for Japanese consumers.
  2. More females than ever before say that they consume alcohol regularly. This opens possibilities especially for products that can be appealing to females from their 20s to 40s.
  3. As the overall consumption of alcohol is decreasing, more space is left for other premium beverages that can be consumed in celebrations instead of alcohol. 

Finnish offering benefits from clean and healthy reputation and joint campaigns

Finland's image in Japan is clean and healthy, and Finnish culture and design are already well known. Opening of the new Moomin park close to Tokyo is part of the ever-increasing Finland boom and as culture and design are already well known more and more people can find Finnish food items as an exotic and interesting extension to their already Nordics-inspired lifestyle. This provides an excellent launch pad for introducing natural, healthy and functional Finnish food items and ingredients to the Japanese market. Here you can optionally provide relevant additional info about the opportunity that should be shown after the key points in the published text.

Background information

Ruokavirasto’s information about export requirements to Japan

  • Ruokavirasto/the Finnish Food Authority promotes the export of Finnish food chain products to countries outside the EU by enabling new and securing existing exports.
  • The Finnish Food Authority also offers advice to companies and control authorities on the official requirements of target countries.