TOKYO >> Japan may be known for its cars and electronics, but people around the world seem to scream for Japanese ice cream as well. Through the first six months of 2021, the total export value of ice cream and other frozen desserts reached $28.3 million, up more than 40% from the same period in 2020.
Lotte Co. began full-scale exports of its big seller, Yukimi mochi ice cream, around 2015. The product is now sold in about 20 countries. The company said Yukimi is popular for the soft texture of the mochi, which does not harden even when frozen.
Imuraya Group Co. exports its mainstay products such as Azuki Bar and Yawamochi Ice Cream to the United States and Taiwan.
From 2000 to 2012 the annual export value of ice cream stayed in the $3.5 million to $7 million range, according to the Finance Ministry.
Ice cream exports took off after washoku (traditional Japanese) cuisine was added to UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage List in 2013, and now, with more people eating at home during the pandemic, sales of products for home consumption are through the roof.
The Tokyo Olympics could be another reason for the increased interest. One reporter’s Twitter post about Yukimi drew lots of attention abroad.
While shipping costs and tariffs double the prices of the treats overseas, trade agreements to lower tariffs are expected to further encourage exports.
But some companies have decided on local production. In September the Imuraya Group was slated to start producing Azuki Bars in Malaysia and sell the treat in neighboring countries.
Said an official of the Japan Ice Cream Association, “As the population declines in Japan, such companies place high expectations on ice cream demand in Southeast Asian countries, where the weather is warm all year round.”