Irish beef conquers the Japanese premium market

Irish beef has its first foothold in Japan’s premium market as Longford-based John Stone has agreed to supply luxury department store Isetan – Japan’s equivalent of Brown Thomas.

Agriculture Minister Charlie McConalogue was in Tokyo to kick off the deal, which will see John Stone supply the Kojima Shoten store in Isetan’s food hall and 14 restaurants in the high-end store. This is the first Irish beef to be listed in premium Japanese retail.

In 2019, Kojima Shoten CEO Yasunari Kojima came to Ireland for a study visit as part of a Bord Bia led European beef and lamb campaign.

Michael Murphy, Bord Bia’s interim CEO, said the sale of grass-fed Irish beef “at one of the most prestigious department stores in the world is a strong endorsement of From Farm to Fork’s quality and reputation”.

“The value of Irish beef exports to Japan rose by 28 per cent last year to €28 million. Whilst the majority of these exports are imported frozen and destined for the foodservice and manufacturing sectors, this launch reflects the growing opportunity for Irish beef to find a niche amongst premium suppliers, with trade buyers showing increasing interest in Irish grass-fed beef.”

John Stone, a family business, supplies some of the world’s leading hotels and restaurants with Irish beef and lamb from its Ballymahon headquarters.

Although they are primarily food service specialists, they offer retail packaged steaks to select customers.
“We only work with those who have an equal commitment to providing a taste experience of the highest quality,” said Managing Director Tim Stone.

Ciarán Gallagher, Bord Bia Director for Southeast Asia

Added: “Irish exports to Japan have been growing rapidly in recent years, with the total value of exports increasing by 56 per cent from €112 million in 2018 to €175 million last year.

“Building lasting trade relationships in Japan takes time and a strong understanding of local business nuances.”

The introduction of Irish beef at Isetan is part of a wider promotional campaign for Bord Bia meat to promote awareness and growth of Irish meat and seafood throughout Japan.

Japanese consumers tend to prefer grain-fed beef over grass-fed beef due to the reputation of their own grain-fed Wagyu beef and the long history of successful marketing of US grain-fed beef.

Last year, Bord Bia conducted a pilot project with 300 Japanese consumers to understand how grass-fed Irish beef was perceived.

The first phase examined attitudes towards grass-fed beef, while the second phase conducted blind taste tests.

The study uncovered positive perceptions of grass-fed beef among participants, who felt it was healthier, more natural and more environmentally friendly.

Irish beef was compared to beef from the US, Australia and Japan, examining taste, texture, fat content, marbling and appearance both raw and cooked.

Irish beef performed strongly against grass-fed Australian beef, outperforming it in every way.

The results show that Japanese consumers enjoy the taste and smell of Irish grass-fed beef. Irish beef conquers the Japanese premium market

Fry Electronics Team

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