Partnerships Create Growing Niche Market for U.S. Food Barley Sales In Japan

The U.S. Grains Council (USGC) utilized Market Access Program (MAP) funds to promote high beta-glucan barley as a health-oriented new grain in Japan, a highly health-conscious food market. The Council has been promoting high beta-glucan barley in Japan for more than 10 years and has seen increasing interest and sales over that time with the potential for similar promotions in South Korea and Taiwan.

Japanese consumers are increasingly placing a value on the nutritional profile of their food. This health awareness combined with a decade of Council promotion has created a small but 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 products including cereals 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 Foreign Agricultural Service (USDA’s 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.

To ensure that this market continues to grow and to keep 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, the Council spent $50,000 in MAP funds to promote the U.S. barley exports to Japan in 2018. Sales of nearly 29,000 metric tons of U.S. food barley in 2018, valued at $15 million, indicate a return on investment (ROI) of $300 to every $1 of MAP invested.