Big in Japan: Rozendal Vinegar at Foodex Japan 2013
Rozendal Vinaigrier Nathalie Amman answers some questions about her recent trip to Tokyo for Foodex Japan 2013.
Why do you exhibit at Foodex Japan?
Foodex Japan is Asia’s biggest food tradeshow, and attracts buyers, retailers, manufacturers from all over the world (roughly 20 000 visitors per day). Exhibited products include everything from seasonings to oils and wine, ice cream, meat, raw ingredients and processed products.
So it offers a great opportunity to enter the Asian market, and also a good travel experience. In addition, as a South African manufacturer we exhibit within the pavilion for developing countries, which is subsidised by the Japanese government, making it a very attractive opportunity overall.
How is Rozendal Vinegar received in the Japanese market?
It’s well received because people understand vinegars and sour tastes, as a lot of their food uses vinegar – it’s an integral ingredient. So people get it, their palates are accustomed to it. That said, most Japanese vinegars are grain vinegars, so a red wine vinegar is novel. At the end of every tasting they would say “Oishi!” which means tasty. There’s also a trend for drinking vinegars for health, in comparison with South Africa where people might find it surprising.
The Japanese culture can be very traditional, but our market is the 30-something, discerning consumer seeking novel, fine-crafted, artisan products, which is why Rozendal Vinegar does well – people enjoy the story behind the product. People are looking for the best products and often gravitate towards the stereotype – for example wine from France, but our awards definitely help build our credibility.
How did you experience Japanese food – the restaurants and general food culture?
There are so many little restaurants, and people eat out a lot. We experimented a bit at the beginning – eating some strange dishes like raw pickled aubergine, all kinds of fishes (and parts of fishes) and raw squid (which was awful). What saved us often was the tradition of food moulds – where a fake dish is displayed so you can see exactly what you’re going to eat.
What was a highlight of the trip?
After the trade show was over, we left the city and took a trip up to Hakone, a weekend-away spot. There are hot springs because of the volcanic activity, and everyone walks around in their traditional robes, enjoying the hot springs, saunas and steam rooms. It’s really awesome, and brings in the zen part of Japanese culture, where people relax and switch off because Tokyo is such a stressful busy place – it brings balance.