USSEC recently participated in the 2nd Tofu Competition and the 6th Japan Tofu Shop Summit in Kumamoto City, Kumamto Prefecture, Japan. A record 270 participants, including tofu companies, soy wholesalers, and government leaders from throughout Japan attended the event. The event was organized by Zentoren and the General Incorporated Foundation National Federation of Tofu, and was sponsored by USSEC; the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries; and Zen-noh. National and local TV stations, including NHK, also participated.
USSEC Country Director - Japan Mitsuyuki Nishimura and Human Utilization Director Masi Tateishi represented USSEC.
This event offered younger leaders in Japan’s tofu industry the opportunity to interact with each other and learn about products and marketing to educate the next generation of leaders to be successful and sustainable. In 1960, the number of tofu shops in Japan was 51,596, but was down to 8,017 in 2014. This reduction demonstrates that tofu is the most fragmented and artisanal business with the highest numbers of players in the Japanese food industry. Thus, product innovation and sustainability is the key for survival in next generation. The discussion for the 2016 Tofu Summit also included upcoming new fair competition rules, a case study of image branding, and “Tofu Meister” progress.
Mr. Nishimura gave a guest speech followed by special guest Yoshimasa Hayashi, the former Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, emphasizing the U.S. Soy advantage with impending record high production. Ms. Tateishi participated as a judge at the tofu competition and tasted 107 different tofus. The total numbers of entries this year was 668, 5 times larger than last year, when preliminary contests conducted in 7 regions across Japan throughout the year had selected the 107 finalists.
The top three prizes were given. First place was presented to the Japan Nutrition School Lunch Association, Tochigi Prefecture; second place went to Tofu Kobo Ajika, Gunma Prefecture; and Tominari Goro Shoten, Nagano Prefecture was awarded third place.
Zentoren announced that the 7th Tofu Summit to be held in Tokyo in December 2017.
USSEC, in coordination with Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) Tokyo and Agricultural Trade Office (ATO), recognized the best tofu using 100 percent imported U.S. Soy, beginning in 2016. The inaugural award was given to Satonoyuki Shokuhin/ Shikoku Kakoki of Tokushima Prefecture.
“I am very honored to be selected [to receive] the first commemorative U.S. Soy Ambassador Award,” stated Makoto Murao, executive director of Satonoyuki. “Our company has been using U.S. Soy for many years and thus we have been closely communicating with U.S. Soy farmers in various regions of the U.S. . .we learned U.S. Soy growers produce safe and reliable, high protein, high yield and highly suitable soy for tofu making.”
“I view [the U.S. Soy Ambassador Award] as giving us precious opportunities to convey those excellent messages about U.S. Soy farmers to our Japanese consumers as well,” he continued. “Currently, our company contracts with excellent soybean farmers in Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota and Ohio. Recent U.S. soybean quality has improved greatly and because of it, we are able to manufacturer higher quality tofu. We believe long-term communication with those U.S. soybean farmers and our mutual understanding led to winning this award, and we are very appreciative. We look forward to sharing this happiness with those U.S. farmers.”
USSEC is currently preparing an event for the winners in coordination with FAS and ATO Tokyo. Japan, a large consumer of tofu products, used nearly 477,000 metric tons (MT) of non-GMO identity preserved (IP) soybeans in 2015. Over 42 percent of the soybeans used for tofu are from the U.S. whose market share increased 7 percent from 2012 to 2017. USSEC Japan will continue to work with and support Japan’s tofu industry by establishing a U.S. Soy Ambassador Sustainability Award in the near future to optimize the use and value of sustainable U.S. Soy.
To watch a video of this event, please click here.