White Sorghum: Developing a Niche Market in Japan’s Food Industry

The U.S. Grains Council’s (USGC’s) office in Japan recently held a sorghum food tasting event attended by more than 80 food industry reporters, food bloggers and food industry sorghum users who were able to try new sorghum-based dishes and encouraged to share their experiences with their readers and colleagues.  

While Japan’s outstanding sales and accumulated exports of U.S. sorghum totaled only 104,000 metric tons (4 million bushels) as of May 14 for the 2014/2015 marketing year - and only a portion of that is being used for food products - the Council believes Japan’s health-oriented consumers are a promising audience for food products made from U.S. sorghum.

“White sorghum offers many benefits as a food product,” said USGC Director in Japan Tommy Hamamoto. “It is a gluten-free food that has low-oil absorption. These characteristics are important to Japanese consumers who are willing to pay a premium for high-quality foods.”

Also during this event, Erica Angyal, a health icon who is popular among Japanese women, and Chef Tsukuda, who works at the hotel where the event took place, held short discussions about the health benefits of foods made with sorghum.

“This event is important as it kicks off the sorghum food fair that runs for two months,” Hamamoto said. “One restaurant alone is expected to serve 16 sorghum dishes in its buffet. We believe at the end of this event more than 10,000 people will have tried a dish with sorghum in it.”

The entire event was documented in a promotional video that will be shared on social media by the Japan office and provided to the host hotel and attendees for their use as well. 

This program is one example of USGC efforts to promote sorghum to the Japanese food industry. The Council’s office in Japan will continue this effort through attending food shows and other outreach.

“Right now the market for white sorghum in the Japanese food industry is relatively small, but in three to five years, we expect Japanese end-users, processers, food industries and consumers will learn the value and benefits of using U.S. sorghum as a food ingredient and begin to commercialize health-oriented food products that use U.S. sorghum,” Hamamoto said. “Until then, the Council will continues its efforts to develop this niche market.”