Long-Term Food Barley Promotion Leads To Increasing Exports To Japan

The U.S. Grains Council’s work to promote high beta-glucan barley in Japan over the last decade has paid off in direct sales and growing efforts by the local snack food industry to promote U.S. barley as a health food product.

Japanese consumers place high importance on the nutritional value of their food. This health awareness, combined with joint promotion by the Council and local industry, has created a growing niche market for specific varieties of U.S. food barley containing high levels of beta-glucan, a dietary fiber. According to U.S. research, high beta-glucan barley contains heart-healthy properties that may reduce cholesterol, reduce the risk of heart disease and reduce glycemic index. 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 and snack bars.

To help boost U.S. market share in Japan, the Council has partnered with Zenbakuren (All Japan Barley Industry Association), the Japan Food Barley Promotion Association and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service (USDA FAS) to promote the heart health benefits of barley with snack food companies and industry associations. Promotional activities have included providing the latest research about barley varieties, organizing food barley focused trade teams to the U.S. and reverse missions of U.S. industry to Japan. Based on these continued efforts, the Japanese industry has begun independently promoting these heart healthy food barley products and rice extender products throughout Japan

To ensure sales would occur once Japanese companies found value in U.S. food barley, the Council has used trade teams and educational seminars to educate local buyers on contracting with U.S. barley growers.

Even though overall volume is at the niche market level, Japan is an important and growing market for the U.S. barley industry. Japan purchased nearly 37,000 metric tons of U.S. food barley in 2019, up from 29,000 tons in 2018. According to the Japan Customs statistics, a total of 9,000 tons of food barley has been imported to Japan from the U.S. between January to April 2020.

In 2019, the Council invested $5,000 of Market Access Program (MAP) funds in food barley programs in Japan, supporting additional sales of food barley in excess of $3.9 million compared with that in 2018, a return on investment of $780 per $1 of MAP funds invested.

Since beginning food barley programs in 2008, the Council has invested approximately $500,000 to support sales of 110,000 metric tons of U.S. barley, valued at $53 million, generating return on investment (ROI) of $106 for every $1 of MAP invested.

Learn more about the Council’s work to promote food barley in Japan.