Decoding Japanese Food Trends from Trade Shows - Series 3 part 1
The 46th International Hotel and Restaurant Show (February 20th-23rd, 2018, Tokyo Big Sight) presented “Natural Food: Audition to Discover New Recipes” as one of its showcase events.
The aim of this audition program was to boost Japan’s natural foods market and raise the quality of natural food products. It has been attracting attention since before the event, as an unprecedented new initiative to use natural food recipes to link cooks with companies.
The eight finalists who passed the preliminary review were divided into two divisions, for main dishes and sweets, which worked on cooking demonstrations at the same time. The five assessment criteria were  Originality,  How natural ingredients are used,  Finished appearance (photogenic appeal),  Nutritional balance,  Unit price and costs, with a tasting review. A white-hot food contest ensued.
In the main dishes division, Yoko Hirabayashi, a specialist in organic ingredients, clinched a double win, taking the Grand Prix and the Popular Recipe Award. The recipe was entitled “Brown rice burger layered with fried lotus root”. It was popular for its use and combination of natural ingredients. The recipe will be commercially developed.
In the sweets division, Eri Akihata of the Japan Finger Food Association was another double winner of the Grand Prix and the Popular Recipe Award. Her recipe was entitled “Goji berry and tofu cream layer dessert”. It is said to be difficult to find organic ingredients for sweets, but Akihata’s recipe was well regarded for its use of readily-available tofu. This recipe will also be commercially developed.
Among the reviewers, Mayumi Kawano of Bio c’Bon Japan commented that “There are almost no events like this that concentrate on natural ingredients, so this is an event for the future”. Reviewer Ritsuko Katagiri of Yakuryo Kaihatsu said “This event advanced the aim of expanding the natural foods market. There was also a panel discussion by the finalists, which conveyed the cooks’ ideas and their recipes in more depth”. Yoshihiro Hattori of Seijo Ishii commented that “Both the Grand Prix recipes were commendable as cookery. However, there are some aspects, including packaging, that I can’t quite see being put on store shelves as commercial products”.
“Natural Food: Audition to Discover New Recipes” is set to continue in 2019. As an unprecedented natural food event, it is certain to gather more attention in future, and it is hoped that it will serve to build and stimulate Japan’s natural food industry, and bring more variety in natural foods to Japan’s dining tables.