The ready-to-eat (RTE) bread market in Japan is experiencing significant growth, driven by the ability to cater to diverse budget needs. According to in-store sales data (KSP-POS), the market’s sales value from January to December 2023 increased by 4.3% year-on-year, with sales volume rising by 1.2%. The average price also saw a 3% increase, from 121 yen to 125 yen. The growth accelerated in early 2024, with sales value up by 6.9% and sales volume by 2.7% from January to April. The trend is expected to continue, boosted by the positive reception of RTE bread variations of staple brands.

Impact of Staple Series on Market Growth

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the demand for RTE bread, driven by the need for convenience and single-meal solutions, declined as more people cooked at home. However, following the reclassification of COVID-19 and the subsequent recovery in foot traffic, the convenience of RTE bread regained appreciation. Additionally, the increasing consumer trend towards efficient time use, known as “time performance,” has also aligned well with the convenience offered by RTE bread.

Amid rising food prices and electricity costs, consumers are becoming more cost-conscious. According to a spokesperson from a leading bread manufacturer, there is a shift from judging products based on unit price to focusing on the “affordability” of individual items. This shift is evident in the increased demand for packaged RTE bread priced around 150 yen, compared to more expensive sandwiches over 200 yen. Products with names that suggest larger portions, such as “large,” “plenty,” and “hearty,” are also gaining popularity.

The Success of Classic Brands in RTE Bread

An important factor in the market’s growth is the adaptation of trusted classic brands into the RTE bread category. Brands like Yamazaki Baking’s “Koppe Pan” series and “Usukawa” series have successfully transitioned into RTE bread, leveraging their long-standing reputation to assure consumers of quality. For instance, the “Koppe Pan Gourmet” series and the “Usukawa Gourmet” series have seen robust sales. Notably, the “Usukawa Tamago Pan” (four pieces per pack), launched on January 1, has become a hit, thanks to improved quality and its popular egg filling.

In summary, the Japanese RTE bread market is thriving by meeting diverse consumer needs, from budget-conscious choices to trusted brand extensions. This growth trend is set to continue as manufacturers innovate and adapt to evolving consumer preferences.

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