Oatmeal cereal experienced a surge in popularity in Japan during the COVID-19 pandemic due to increased health awareness. However, its growth has slowed down post-pandemic, and Japanese brands are now striving to sustain this trend by introducing new textures and formats of oatmeal products, such as oatmeal bread, oatmeal bars, and oatmeal risotto bars that do not require microwaving or boiling water. Despite numerous oatmeal cereal products available in other countries, which are not currently present in Japan.

This article ‘s purpose is to be an idea how overseas brands can successfully enter and thrive in the Japanese market. For example, oatmeal squares cereal from overseas is a great opportunity now.

Oatmeal’s rise to culinary stardom began around 2020, fueled by a heightened focus on health and a surge in home cooking during the COVID-19 pandemic. This humble grain quickly became a go-to for its nutritional benefits and ease of preparation. Market research from Intage revealed a significant sales jump from 2019 to 2022, indicating oatmeal’s soaring popularity.

However, by 2023, this trend showed signs of decline. Nikkei’s Point of Sale data indicated a 35% drop in oatmeal sales per 1,000 customers compared to two years prior. Despite this, the variety of oatmeal products has nearly doubled, pointing to a highly competitive market where standing out is key.

Social media played a pivotal role in oatmeal’s rise. Platforms like SNS and YouTube, particularly through fitness, diet, and beauty influencers, spotlighted oatmeal as a nutrient-rich food ideal for various health goals. A creative culinary shift emerged, dubbed “oatmealization,” where oatmeal started replacing rice in dishes like porridge, risotto, and rice balls.

In 2021, major cereal manufacturers entered the fray, injecting new life into the oatmeal market. They focused on the health benefits of replacing rice with oatmeal, offering products like Rolled Oats and Steel-Cut Oats to mimic traditional textures. This shift underscored oatmeal’s versatility and its potential to healthy traditional meals, making it a staple in modern, health-conscious kitchens.

Brands are introducing a variety of new products to sustain and expand the oatmeal trend. These products are designed for convenience, strongly appealing as alternatives to staple foods. For instance, there are oatmeal bars that can be eaten without the need for water or a microwave. Such innovations in oatmeal products aim to increase consumer convenience, allowing for nutritious meals even during busy days.

【Below picture is Standard Japanese cereal shelf. Oatmeal assortment is very basic.】

  • In September 2023, The “Delicious Oatmeal New” series is a “new staple food” launched by Nissin Sysco for those who want to enjoy delicious meals while taking care to maintain their health. The “Delicious Oatmeal New” series is a “new staple food” proposed by Nissin Sysco for those who want to enjoy delicious meals while taking care to maintain good health. 
  • In January 2023, UHA Ajinomoto Co., Ltd. introduced the “Oatmeal Satiety Bar – Tomato Risotto Style.” This product is primarily available through online retail channels. It is a ready-to-eat rice bar, requiring no cooking and can be consumed instantly. Furthermore, this product is made using Finnish oats.
  • In October 2023, Japan Kellogg Co., Ltd. will be launching the “Oatmeal Bar” nationwide at convenience stores .This product is a new type of bar that contains plenty of dietary fiber and features oatmeal, which has been growing in popularity in recent years as a diet-friendly option, and can be enjoyed without any cooking or preparation. It comes in two flavors, “Berry Mix” and “Chocolate,” both made with 100% oatmeal as the base. Despite having fewer than 140 calories, it offers a satisfying and hearty eating experience, characterized by a moist texture with the delightful accent of vibrant fruits.

In Japan, while the oatmeal market has been somewhat slow in adopting the trend of “rice-ification” (using oatmeal as a rice substitute) and lagging behind Western markets, it has shown a tendency towards bar-type products. From Martner Japan perspective, the following products have potential in the Japanese market, along with reasons and insights.

Concept Example imageReasonInsights
Instant Oat meal in cupQuick and easy-to-prepare food options are attractive for busy modern consumers. Instant mixes cater to this need while also appealing to health-conscious individuals.There is a demand for convenient, healthy food options in Japan, where convenience and health consciousness are highly valued.
Flavored Oatmeal Offering a variety of flavors caters to diverse consumer preferences and needs. Incorporating local or regional flavors can be a strategic move.
In Japan, there is almost no flavor options for oatmeal cereal.
Japanese consumers are open to new and unique flavors and also want to try limited edition.
Unique shape: Oat Squares CerealShapes options are very limited in Japan. Offering unique shapes can stand out in stores. Japanese consumers are open to new shapes and also want to try limited edition.
Oatmeal-Based Ready Meals.Fully prepared ready meals are extremely convenient for people with busy lifestyles. Oatmeal-based meals offer both nutritional value and convenience.There is a growing demand for time-saving products that are also health-oriented in Japan.
Source of Pictures from Kroger, Target , Walmart website

These product ideas leverage health trends, convenience, and flavor diversity, which are key factors in the Japanese market, indicating their potential for future growth and popularity.