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Japan's elderly create market for special foods

By Dominique Patton , 19-Oct-2006

Foodmakers offering products designed specifically for the elderly should look at exporting to Japan, a market with one of the fastest growing elderly populations, says the Australian export agency Austrade.

The share of elderly people as a percentage of the working population in Japan is one of the highest in the world and by 2025 experts predict that there will be one elderly person for every two people of working age. Austrade's Tokyo-based senior trade commissioner, Phil Ingram, says that as Australia's population ages, many businesses are developing products and services which would also suit the Japanese market. "The kinds of export opportunities for Sydney businesses are vast and include anything to do with hobby or recreational pursuits that targets the elderly from learning how to knit, or yoga to amateur photography.." It extends to products that are easy to open and close, light and small, simple and easy to use as well as niche products such as organic food packaged in small quantities that comes in easy to open packaging." Government reforms in Japan have made it easier to set up an office in the country, allowing Australian companies to tap the potential in this market. Australia already exports significant quantities of food to Japan and a number of firms producing niche or luxury products are already benefiting from this ageing population. Jam maker Beechworth Preserves has seen a 30 per cent growth in sales to this market in recent years. Ingram said businesses most likely to benefit from recent improvements in Japan are ones that adapt their products and services to the Japanese market, and set up their infrastructure to cater for the needs of the market which usually requires having an office and staff in Japan. Australians in franchising should also consider Japan where there is a need for cafes, juice bars and business services, he added. Austrade is organizing a seminar on the opportunities in Japan in Sydney tomorrow.

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