• The Japanese specialty market


    The Japanese specialty market is not dissimilar to the United States, and it too has distinctive segments:

    • Almost mythical name coffee: Blue Mountain, Hawaiian Kona etc.;
    • Good quality, straight origin estate or area coffees;
    • Decent standard qualities;
    • Branded blends.

    There are no dedicated specialty importers but most importers handle at least some specialty coffees and increasingly service smaller downstream buyers directly although there is also a network of coffee dealers and wholesalers. Interestingly, larger roasters maintain their own coffee outlets within large department stores – in so doing, they of course achieve widespread exposure.

    The Japanese market basically offers producers the same sales prospects as does the United States with the exception that it is very difficult to gain recognition for new individual coffees. This is because creating a stand-alone brand image for an individual coffee would be enormously expensive and without guarantee of success. Disclosure of origin at retail level is provided for in consumer legislation but as the composition of blends is flexible and they are sold under the roasters’ own brand names, usually only the main components are identified by country of origin (and never by individual grower or producer). As a result price resistance in Japan, other than for a few stand-alone top coffees, is probably greater than in the United States specialty market. For more information visit www.scaj.org - the website of the Specialty Coffee Association of Japan.

    Other emerging specialty markets in Asia would appear to be strongly influenced by trends in the United States. United States operators have opened or franchised specialty stores in Australia, Hong Kong (China), Singapore and elsewhere.

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