*main picture is of an organic genmaicha (roasted brown rice green tea).
First Time Attendee
Since I’ve never been to this event before, I decided to spend a considerable amount of time nerding out by researching each and every company (this is what I do for fun). The reasoning behind that was to see how much I’d understand about these companies solely from Googling them. In some cases, a couple of them had done an excellent job of providing an online presence that also catered to an English speaking audience, but there were the few I had no clue as to what they do.
Luckily for me, the promoters of this event did an outstanding job of putting this event together because upon entering, you also get a packet that goes over what each and every company does, along with having a translator on hand for each vendor.
I’ve never had any food allergies, and my stomach is like a cast iron stomach because I’ve luckily only had food poisoning about 3 or maybe 4x’s in my entire life. Either I’m lucky, or all those years of going past the 3-second rule for dropped food or eating things past its expiration date is paying off (*knock on wood*). So a lot of the food isn’t pertinent to me for any dietary reasons, and my criteria are all based on taste/texture, etc.
Who is this Event For
YOU. Ok, more specifically if you’re in the food industry either in food processing, a distributor, or a restaurant owner/employee. The companies all come from Japan, and they range from processed seafood, fresh seafood, processed food, tea, noodles, snacks, seasoning and sauces, fruits and wines, to rice. So whether or not you’re trying to find an organic matcha green tea supplier for your ice cream company or you’re a restauranteur looking to add an organic, non-GMO, gluten-free ramen to your menu, this is the event for you…. and your mom (take her next time).
Not pictured is Asaichiban, Kowa, Maruyama
Who turns down fresh sushi? This guy (I’m pointing at myself). I just didn’t want to put up with a line even though the line wasn’t all that long.
- Specialty: mochi (I hate to break it to you, but not all mochi is filled with ice cream) in multiple flavors.
- The Details: I didn’t happen to speak to anybody here, but I did try the mochi which was quite tasty. I should point out that when tasting at these sort of events, your judgment is reduced down to either “good” or “wtf is this.” I say that because you’d have to be knowledgable to be able to discern various levels of quality of mochi. So since this was in the “good range” for me, I wouldn’t mind having this in my freezer because it has a one-year shelf life when frozen, and I wouldn’t be under pressure to have to eat it. Once you do it eat, it’s good to know you’re looking at 80 calories (not sure if it’s each or for the entire package?). As for flavors, they offer their mochi in green tea, coffee, azuki bean, mango and coconut, and “green beans”…it sucks when they translate things literally (is this a green bean because I’d assume it’d be edamame?).
- Company Info: http://www.miyano-mame.jp/blog/ (Japanese only)
- Specialty: Hokkaido Salmon Snacks
- The Details: wasn’t able to connect with anybody at this table either, but they did offer a healthy range of salmon based snacks like creamy Hokkaido Tokachi cheese (dammnn, that sounds good) sandwiched with dried cod (“cod”…ok, that might have just killed the appeal although since I’m Asian, it’s probably good), roasted salmon skin chips that are rich in collagen, salmon jerky (saketoba) made from high-quality Hokkaido salmon, to grilled corn (yaki tomorokoshi).
- Company Info: a PDF with the company overview in English. www.edoya-group.co.jp
- Specialty: frozen steamed oysters from Japan.
- The Details: wasn’t able to connect with anybody at this table, but they are a HACCP certified business (want to find out what that acronym is all about, click here). Their “tama seiro” oysters are steamed, not boiled. They are shucked and frozen to preserve the fresh oyster juice for a bold flavor and easy preparation…. let me say it again, oyster juice. That matters to me because it’s the reason why some restaurants emphasize fresh beef, it’s because of that “juice” or moisture that is more often destroyed when being freezed (worst case, freezer burn).
- Company Info: www.marutosuisan.jp.
- Specialty: manufacturer of organic foods that are non-GMO, and free of artificial addittive such as MSG, preservatives, and colorings, and flavorings.
- The Details: very enjoyable time speaking with Yuki’san who was able to go into depth about all their products which range from yuzu, sudachi ponzu, oyster sauce sauce, dressings, to carbonated drinks. Out of them all, I got to check out the yuzu ponzu and yuzu products.
- Company Info: Hikari Foods Co., Ltd website in both English and Japanese. There’s a very popular Japanese fish food company with the same name located in the Bay Area, so don’t get the two confused unless you want to feed your koi.
- Specialty: Total fish and seafood export service for seafood importers here in the U.S. with more than 300 types of fish available. Uon ships directly from HACCP certified factories.
- The Details: I think they’re only pushing the fresh bluefin from Japan’s southern regions of Kagoshima, Nagasaki, and Kochi. There’s a couple of videos by this company that aren’t the best although they aren’t bad. Its just some of the wording and the Indian voiceover is slightly off making it hard to understand/funny here’n’there. This video is about their services (anybody want tuna) or what exactly their services entail (in a Stephen Hawking synthesizer voice).
- Company Info: best thing is that their company website is available in English and Japanese.
Eco Rice Niigata
- Specialty: Hokkaido Salmon Snacks
- The Details: packaged rice that you can eat just by adding cold or hot water. Each packet is about 380 yen or about $3.40 which is great for the outdoorsmen or the survivalists wanting to stock up because I think the rice comes with an extremely long shelf life. This is the product you want to stock up with if there were ever (or when) a zombie apocalypse.
- Company Info: I found their products listed at Amazon.com (not available though) or Rakuten (rice flour cookies), but for more information, their website is only available in Japanese.
- Specialty: mung bean chips, red bean chips, and green pea chips.
- The Details: when I tried to research this company, I came across nothing so I wasn’t expecting much. Fortunately I was pleasantly suprised by their products and booth because not only did they have a product that looks perfect for American store shelves (nicely adapted packaging design), but their rep was a cool dude from my home state of Colorado. No wonder everything here is coming off spot-on since Colorado is also the state where a number of globally recognized chains have started off from like Chipotle, Quizno’s, Boston Market, to Qdoba. I tried the green pea chip which was jus’ “aiggghht”, but i’m sure it’s best with some sort of pairing/topping (aka dips or canapes). Maybe the reason for my unenthusiastic response was because these chips are fat-free (fat is flavor, haha), and the beans are carefully pressed and baked for the light and crunchy texture.
- Company Info: www.shibuyarex.com
- Specialty: no MSG candied sweet potato, sauteed vegetables with yuzu pepper sauce, and spinach and tofu salad.
- The Details: all pre-prepared, ready to eat, Japanese vegetable dishes. This is the sort of stuff you’d only find at a home, in a Gardena/Torrance restaurant, but you won’t typically come across it in most Japanese restaurants. That’s because most Americans have no clue as to what these dishes are, and they aren’t accustomed to eating anything other than soup and salad.
- Company Info: yamadai.jp
- Specialty: Japanese organic matcha tea.
- The Details: organic cerermonial and culinary grade matcha tea that is JAS, USDA, and EU certified. That might be the case, but just from looking at their packaging, it’s all over the place in regards to branding. It’s obviously all their products, but from the design you can’t tell that. They all look different, so I’m not sure if this is their range of product, or if the products are completely different from one another when you quickly glance at their product line up.
- Company Info: N/A
- Specialty: Japanese artisanal products.
- The Details: Supposely Michelin starred chefs in Japan favor the salt from Awaji, but I’m going to have to look that up (couldn’t readily find anything). Other products they offer are bonito stock, and handmade noodles infused with premium salt (“moshio”). Moshio is salt that is made from seaweed, and if you want to know more, read this article by the JapanTimes.co.jp (in the article imagery, they actually show this product).
- Company Info: www.e-moshio.com
- Specialty: frozen udon and ramen noodles
- The Details: they have a gimmicky “mini double” which lets you prepare your noodles in a half portion or a full portion, but I say gimmicky because why not just simply make them all mini’s, and you add as many as you want to get the portion size you want? Regardless of that, they do export their frozen noodles with a long life shelf-life to over 35 countries. That might be very impressive in itself, but find this more impressive which is that their noodles only take 30 seconds of boiling to prepare?!?! Wuuuuuhhh, thats way cooler than their “mini double”.
- Company Info: www.shimadaya.co.jp
- Specialty: gluten-free noodles
- The Details: I love Japanese packaging, so when they use equally capable packaging designers to come up with a design to appeal to the mass market, it comes out like their new packaging shown below which is nicely done. As for what they sell, they sell gluten free rice noodles manufactured in an ISO-9001 authenticated factories. White and brown rice based noodles are available in either ramen, udon, spaghetti, and fettuccine. That line of products, combined with the people I’ve met, makes for a great winning combo.
- Company Info: http://kobayashiseimen.jp
- Specialty: tea
- The Details: Winner of the “Outstanding Tea Award” at the HKTDC Hong Kong International Tea Fair, 2015.
- Company Info:
Southern Glazers Wine & Spirits
- Specialty: sake
- The Details: Several types of sake from Kasumi Tsuru which is one of the few breweries using the labor intensive old traditional method of hand crafting in the kimoto method.
- Company Info: sgws.com
- Specialty: tea and ramen (they have some range).
- The Details: Thor was very outgoing, so it was easy to engage and learn about their product line-up. The first product they offer up is a minimalist looking package that contains their organic instant ramen noodle called “Zen”. This ramen is a Kosher product approved by the Orthodox Union (how many ramen brands do you know of that has those bragging rights?). Their other product is a sweetened matcha made with organic and Kosher Japanese green tea sealed in inidividually-sealed single serving sized sticks which is great for cooking or baking.
- Company Info: www.lequios-j.com
- Specialty: veggie tofu nugget (lotus root/renkon), veggie tofu nuggets (edamame)
- The Details: mashed tofu combined with sliced vegetables which are supposedly a healthy “alternative to meatballs” (yea, no, it’s tofu, why does it always have to be related to a meat dish?). They’re made from carefully selected non-GMO soybeans. Tofu in general is an excellent source of protein and is rich in vitamins and minerals, so I suppose in that sense they are a meatball alternative.
- Company Info: www.habutae.co.jp
- Specialty: Japanese rice
- The Details: cooked rice that is IRIS cold-milled available in 5 kg packages. Cold milling keeps rice as fresh as those just harvested. The rice is sealed in a laminted bag with an oxygen absorber pack which has a shelf-life as long as 12 months.
- Company Info: www.irisohyama.co.jp
- Specialty: organic citron juice, yuzu pepper, and Japanese chestnut (waguri) paste.
- The Details: JAS certified organic yuzu (citrus fruit) juice which is available in wholesale packaging with an expiration date of 2+ years when frozen. This is also the vendor that offered up yuzu koshou on top of a cracker and cheese which I never had in that combo. Suprisingly, not bad, but all I got to say is the first company to properly market yuzu koshou to the mass market is going to make some big bucks because this is one of the Japanese condiments that could have MASS APPEAL. I’m willing to gamble money on it because it goes great on chicken, fish, salads… and cheese and crackers.
- Company Info: www.shirokawa.jp
- Specialty: flavored seaweed rich in minerals and vitamins.
- The Details: This was probably the only booth where the “translator” fell short of translatings, so here’s what they had: parboiled mekabu seaweed, wakame seaweed salad with yuzu, and and mozuku seaweed with apple vinegar flavoring.
- Company Info: www.hachiyousuisan.jp
- Specialty: flavored seaweed rich in minerals and vitamins.
- The Details: not the most engaging vendor, but they had a cool minimalist display and cool packaging. Maybe their minimal engagement is part of the theme of the brand. I’ll be sure to keep the details down to a minimum too.
- Company Info: kaboteam.co.jp
- Specialty: Organic shoyu ramen, gluten-free rice bread mix, and organic bran cereal chips.
- The Details: first of all, I like their website, the packaging, and “let’s make rice bread” video. So I definitely wanted to see the booth which has a product line-up that includes: 1. non-fried ramen noodles made with JAS certified, Japan grown, organic wheat which also includes a vegan soup. 2. Organic brand cereal uses low GI coconut sugar and contains zero animal derived ingredients. 3. This product is the one I wanted to try which is the rice bread mix that is gluten-free and made with 100% Japan grown rice flour. Before I came down to the event, I contacted my good friend in Tokyo who is a patisserie, and I asked her how rice flour is. She said it was like rice, and after trying it, I know my brain tells me you’re eating “bread,” but it does have the density and chewiness of rice. It wasn’t bad, but I’d like to try this as a sandwich which could be incredibly cool for chefs to use.
- Company Info: www.sakuraifoods.com
- Specialty: Gluten free Konnyaku products
- The Details: Yea with a name like I.A. Foods, it wasn’t an easy busy to google, but they do flavored konnyaku products from peach to yuzu jelly and konnyaku noodles. Konjac is a low calorie, jello like dessert made with concentrated japanese fruit juice.
- Company Info: http://ia-foods.com
- Specialty: healthy sesame powder
- The Details: they offer a low fat sesame seed… who knew that sesame seeds were that fatty, but they offer up a product that is 20% less fat which is then groud up to be extra fine. That’s why this product is excellent in a number of products from granola bars, mixing in smoothies, for baking, or ICE CREAM!! Never thought as a kid I’d buy a $500 vacuum or love black sesame flavored ice cream, but I have, and I do – I wonder if you can just add this powder to a regular flavored ice cream like vanilla to do your own black sesame ice cream?
- Company Info:
- Specialty: vegan miso soup
- The Details: this is actually a cool looking product because it comes as a brick because the product is a freeze dried, vegan, gluten free, non GMO, fully traceable, with no artificial flavors, low-calorie soup that is made in Japan. All you got to do to eat, is add hot water.
- Company Info: tsubisoup.com
- Specialty: premium strawberries
- The details: fresh premium strawberries (Migaki Ichigo Silver). Sparkling wine made 100% from strawberries, canned strawberry sparkling wine.
- Company Info: www.gra-inc.jp
Toa Food Industrial
- Specialty: matcha soba
- The details: green tea or yam infused buckwheat soba noodles and Japanese style udon noodles. I got to smell and an opened package of green tea soba, and it had an overwhelmingly great scent of green tea all up in my face (I can’t wait to try this). Also, I don’t know about you, but I like the existing packaging which came up during a discussion. My feedback on that is that if you’re targeting a very diverse area such as SoCal at a Japanese market, I would not want to change the packaging design. Although if this product were for a supermarket chain like Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods, you’d want to have a design that reflects that target market.
- Company Info: toafoods.co.jp
- Specialty: organic green tea powder and enzyme drink and paste.
- The Details: the enzyme drink and “paste” (doesn’t that sound tasty) made using 106 kinds of natural ingredients that has been fermented for over a 1,000 days.
- Company Info: overseas.cehla-family.com/index.php
For more information about any of these companies, you can also reach out to JETRO, Los Angeles. Their contact information is T: 213-624-8855 or E: email@example.com.