Chart of Note: Japanese Market For U.S. Food Barley Continues Growth

Japanese consumers place high importance on the nutritional value of their food. This health awareness combined with a decade of U.S. Grains Council (USGC) promotion is creating a growing niche market for specific varieties of U.S. food barley containing high levels of beta-glucan, a dietary fiber.

High beta-glucan barley has heart-healthy properties that may reduce cholesterol, lower the risk of heart disease and reduce glycemic index, according to U.S. research. These nutritional properties make U.S. varieties of food barley attractive for Japanese food producers who use the grain to produce various food products, including cereal products and snack bars.

To help boost U.S. market share, the Council has partnered with Zenbakruen (All Japan Barley Industry Association), the Japan Food Barley Promotion Association and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) to promote the heart health benefits of barley with food snack companies and industry associations through educational seminars, trade teams and reverse missions. Based on these continued efforts, the industry now also independently promotes these products in the Japanese market.

“The growth in demand for U.S. high beta-glucan barley is the direct result of more than 10 years of USGC work,” said Tommy Hamamoto, USGC director in Japan. “The Council has actively promoted the health benefits of barley as well as contract production with U.S. barley growers. Even though overall volume is at the niche market level, Japan is an important and growing market.”

Japan purchased nearly 28,000 metric tons (1.29 million bushels) of U.S. food barley in 2017, up dramatically from 8,400 tons (386,000 bushels) the year prior and the prior five-year average of 4,370 tons (201,000 bushels). According to the Japan Customs statistics, a total of 8,934 tons (410,000 bushels) of food barley have been imported from the United States from January to March 2018.

The Council continues to support the positive growth for food barley in Japan by keeping partner organizations and snack food companies up-to-date with the latest information and research developments related to new varieties of U.S. beta-glucan barley.