FoodEx Japan 2003

Thoughts and observations on fruit at the worlds largest food show.

By Ken Love




The FoodEx show near Tokyo is one of the largest exhibitions for food and food products in the world. Exhibitors come from most countries either on their own or as part of the Japanese External Trade Organization, JETRO. Other large Japanese multinational trading companies also have displays of products they offer for sale in and outside of Japan. Buyers at the show are from a wide variety of companies and countries. Much of the show collateral is in English, Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Italian, German, Spanish and French.


The show featured most categories of foods as well as supporting products. A notable organic food section represented by a number of countries outside the individual country exhibits seemed popular. Smaller sections included health related food products popular in Asia. These included special salts, aloe juice, noni juice and a number of special vinegars and vitamin drinks. Potables could be found throughout the show both at country and company booths.

There were two affiliated shows at another location for the hotel industry and individual restaurants. These shows featured a wide gamut of products from hotel plumbing accessories to restaurant signage, again in a number of languages.


Hawaii was represented by two companies inside the American section. Both for coffee and Macadamia Nuts.


The most popular products at the show judging by my observations as well as media coverage, were wines and fruit products, followed by cheese and pickled items.


Thoughts on how the following country reports might affect fruit marketing in Hawaii are at the end of this report.




Country Reports



The Australian exhibit although featuring mostly wine did have a number of fresh fruit export companies represented. Very high quality brochures were distributed featuring avocado, (Sharwil, Hass & Reed) ; 5 varieties of oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruit, 6 types of mandarins, 2 types of tangelos and fuyu persimmons. This company owned by major growers in Australia and is patterned after Sunkist. The export crop calendar and other support information for potential buyers is much the same as found in Sunkist industry advertisements.


Another part of the Australian booth featured dried fruit which is of dramatically growing interest in Japan. Offered were varieties of dried raisins, currants, apricots, pears, peaches and prunes.


All the Australian producers mention they subscribe to HACCP, ISO, AQA, WVQMS and a number of other quality assurance certifications.



A company within the exhibit  from Columbia revolved around frozen fruit juice and puree as well as fresh juice. Samples were served  of guanabana (soursop), lulo, guava, mango,  passionfruit,  mora (andes berry), papaya, pineapple and tree tomato.

In addition to the recipes available, charts on the health benefits of all the fruit was also given to booth visitors. Packaging and canning systems seemed very modern and in keeping with styles currently available in most stores. Juice packs with the exotic juices will also be available this year.



In the Jamaican exhibit, sponsored by JETRO (Japan External Trade Organization),

Akee fruit was featured along with more common fruit juices. Akee which is produced for some home use in Kona and other Hawaiian locations is usually cooked. Jamaica now has two smaller companies canning akee in brine. They mentioned that they are working on doing the same with breadfruit to develop canned version along with recipes. The akee did not come with recipes. The Jamaican booth also featured their jerk spices and traditional chili based hot sauce.



The Japanese companies featuring fruit products were spread though out the show rather than in country exhibits. However they were numerous in their displays of fruit and fruit passed products. From small companies specializing in one kumquat candy to large multinational trading companies. Much of the fruit processed and sold by the Japanese companies is purchased from the Thai and other companies referred to in these reports. Fruit grown in Japan was also featured. Loquat, citrus, fig, blueberry, grapes and melon for example.  New soft ice cream machines were featured at a number of Japanese companies.  The brochures always included examples with exotic fruit flavors which the companies provide. Most of these new machines are designed to extrude prepackaged individual servings that are pre flavored. Other machines are designed where fresh fruit and nuts can be added to the mix.  Fresh or processed fruit and syrups are is included with the marketing collateral provided by the companies. I was told that various berries are the most but banana, papaya and pineapple are also available as part of the ice cream machine marketing.


The largest fruit exhibit from a Japanese company featuring fruit also revolved around frozen products. Fresh frozen whole or cut fruit including mangosteen, durian, rambutan, sugar apple, melon, mango, berries (blue, black, raspberry & strawberry) and lychee. 

The fresh berries marketed are purchased from the U.S., Canada, Chili, New Zealand and Australia. Notable is the cuts of fruit offered, frozen strawberries for example  could be purchased as whole, thin sliced, diced or halved. Freeze dried berry pieces and powders are also offered.


The most popular product featured was sherbet uniquely packed in it’s own natural shell or skin.  Hollow whole fruit is repacked with sherbet made with the fruit . These are packed individually in gift boxes or sold cut in halves & quarters and bagged for restaurant use. Fruit included prepared in this form include: pineapple, orange, lemon, grapefruit, apple, pear, tangerine, persimmon, mangosteen, yuzu (Japanese citrus), mango (2 varieties), kiwi, papaya, coconut and melon. Pumpkin is also prepared as a sherbet and offered in its shell.

The company also offers stuffed strawberries bonbons, brioche and stuffed small pastries, all including fresh frozen processed fruit. They also use taro, sweet potato and green tea as well as chocolate and vanilla in many of the products. The ice cream and sherbets are all packaged for individual use or in bulk for institutional use. Appropriately, the title, in English, of their catalog is EAT MORE FRUIT.



The largest exhibit in the Malaysian booth featured a wide variety of fruit and fruit  products.  They were centered around consumer marketing rather than for institutional food sales with a wide variety of choices for packaging and quantity and product mix. Products are all attractively packed and bar coded. Product categories and fruit types are listed below.


Pudding          Jelly             Juice             Ice cream


Mango           Lemon           Apple            Mango

Papaya           Apple            Lychee           Lychee

Pineapple         Lychee           Plum            Strawberry

Honey melon      Mango           Strawberry

Jackfruit         Konnyaku        Mango

Passion fruit




Mixed fruit

Konnyaku (Asian potato type)




Although well known in the U.S. and Japan for avocado and citrus, the Mexican exhibit at FoodEx revolved more around lychee. The trees went from Florida to Mexico in the early 1900s and were established later in the State of Oaxaca. The sales brochure listed  250 tons available at $21.50 per case FOB Mexico City for 2003 and 350 tons for 2004.

Cases are 10 pounds each. This is from 7000 trees of the Brewster cultivar. The brochure also included nutrition values, technical information,  and history on lychee in Mexico.




The Philippines booth was a conglomeration of many companies that all have had some inroads to the Japan market. These ranged from smaller farmer cooperatives to large multinationals affiliated with Japanese and American concerns. The range of products offered was great in terms of both food stuffs and supportive supplies, IE: processing, packaging and machinery.  The fruit offered was extensive and in many forms as shown below. The juice category includes puree, nectar and concentrate. The snack category includes dried fruit and chips.


Fresh             Canned          Juice              Jelly          Snacks

Pineapple         Pineapple         Calamondin       Guava        Banana

Banana          Coconut          Mango           Calamondin   Pineapple

Mango           Jackfruit          Pineapple         Banana       Coconut

Mango           Guava           Yam (Uba)       Jackfruit

                Passion Fruit      Jackfruit         Mango

                Red Papaya       Mango           Papaya

                Yellow Papaya




Some of those I talked with said that other companies not at the show had fruit products using Chico, Langsat, Pili and Durian. 


Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka featured a wide variety of teas as well as some vanilla and other crops.]Most notable was the lychee and banana tea. They also had small jelly cups that were mango flavored and sugarless.



The Taiwan booth was extremely large compared to some of the others that featured fresh fruit. Perhaps this is because they already have sales in most major world markets for fruit based products.  Pineapple was featured as fresh fruit and the marketing collateral included a harvest calendar for 4 varieties being sold. The only months that pineapple is not available from Taiwan on the international market is Oct. and Nov.


One of the more popular items at the show was candied kumquat. The fruit, which as long been popular in Asia is processed packed and sold in a variety of forms and with a

Number of sauces.  Dried and sugar coated, in light syrup, heavy syrup, honey and in dried pieces. Bulk packaging or elaborate gift packs for the Japan market is available.


Other fresh fruits offered include, Soursop, Mango, Grapes,  Banana,  Lychee, Guava, Starfruit, melons, plums, Peaches, Figs, Orange and Tangerine (Ponkon).


The largest display inside the Taiwan booth revolved around fruit bites. Those tiny containers of jello with fruit bits found throughout Hawaii. Besides the selection of flavors, the large number of packing choices was surprising as well as the mixtures offered for sale. The jelly as it’s called or yogurt all contain natural fruit pieces. The company has also started to package fruit pudding in slightly larger individual serving containers and fruit bars and wafers.


Fruits being processed and packed in this form include:

Mango, Passionfruit, Mangosteen, Rambutan, Soursop, Cherry, Strawberry, Grape, Pineapple, Lychee, Lemon, Taro, Orange, Peach, Apple, Blueberry, Tangerine, Melon and Coconut.



Thailand's well put together booth featured perhaps the widest variety and innovations among country exhibits featuring fruit.  Much of the information presented revolved around the various cultivars of fruit offered. Arguably the largest push was for the "namdokmai" mango with the "montong" durian a close second. Thai trading companies featured a wide variety of products and offered custom packing and orders could be designed to customer  specifications as to quantity, category and fruit types.  Numerous charts and graphs were available with harvest times, growing conditions,  packaging choices and recipes. Products offered were for both institutional use and for direct consumer marketing.

Elaborate gift packaging was also available for the Japanese market, especially for rambutan, chico, longon, tamarind and oranges.

Some of the more unusual fruit offered for sale include:

Longkong, duku (Lansium domesticum Corr.)

Turkey Berry (Solanum torvum)

Snake Fruit (Salacca edulsis)


The snacks category includes chips, candy, pickled & jarred fruit and cakes. Juice is included in the frozen category which also includes fresh frozen or whole fruit.  Most fruit is available in all categories. Some companies promoted few fruit like Durian and Mango while other Thai companies offered larger selections with less types of processes.  Mango was often divided into 4 categories; white, red, yellow and sweet.

Fruit and categories include:


Fresh           Frozen          Freeze dried    Dried           Snacks          Pastes


Durian          Durian          Durian          Durian          Durian          Durian

Pineapple       Pineapple       Pineapple       Pineapple       Pineapple    Pineapple

Mango          Mango          Mango          Mango          Mango

Longon         Longon                         Longon         Longon

Lychee         Lychee                                         Lychee

Rambutan      Rambutan                                      Rambutan

Mangosteen    Mangosteen                                    Mangosteen

Coconut        Coconut        Coconut        Coconut        Coconut        Coconut

Jackfruit         Jackfruit        Jackfruit        Jackfruit        Jackfruit        Jackfruit

Tamarind                       Tamarind       Tamarind       Tamarind       Tamarind

Banana         Banana         Banana         Banana         Banana         Banana

Guava          Guava          Guava          Guava          Guava 

Pomelo                                         Pomelo         Pomelo

Chico           Chico                                           Chico

Melon          Melon          Melon          Melon          Melon 

Snakefruit      Snakefruit                                      Snakefruit

Longkong      Longkong                                      Longkong

Dragon fruit

Kaffir lime      Kaffir lime                      Kaffir lime      Kaffir lime

Kaffir lime leaves                                Kaffir lime leaves


Fresh           Frozen          Freeze dried    Dried           Snacks          Pastes

Aloe vera                                                                       Aloe vera

                                                 Otaheite gooseberry

                                                                Otaheite gooseberry


                                                Jujube          Jujube

                                                Breadfruit      Breadfruit

                Beal fruit                       Beal fruit       Beal fruit






Turkeys display of figs was complete with history, art, and recipes throughout the ages. The art work with pictures of Ottoman fruit growers, orchards and parades from the 15th century featuring figs was a good draw. Figs, known as ichijiku in Japan, are common there but only has fresh or preserved in jam. Dried figs common to Greece and Turkey are unusual. Samples received a mixed review in this market but those who did enjoy them apparently relished the flavor.  Recipe cards in Japanese and English were available for those who wanted to try fig loaf, sauce or other dishes and samples were made available. The exhibit inside the Government of Turkey booth as sponsored by the

Taris Fig Union, a group of 106 farmer cooperatives in 65 locations operating throughout the Aegean region since 1915. They also handle raisins, cotton and olives.


What Can Hawaii Do?

Hawaii has a number of promising futures with tropical fruit yet many continue to try to compete with countries where labor is not an issue and costs are far below our own. Lychee being sold form Thailand at 50 cents per pound makes it hard to compete on a cost basis when we sell ours at from $2.50 to $4.00 per pound. We do have the advantage of freshness and quality but have to continuously look at new innovative marketing approaches. We have to re-evaluate our own local markets and the fruit we try to bring to market. A much greater diversification in both what we market as well as what we grow can only be to our common advantage. Beyond this greater diversification of fresh fruit, the products we create must also be unique and innovative in order to reach outside our islands. We need to build an infrastructure that supports product development and we need to take advantage of what already exists, The resources of the university as well as state and federal programs.  Many of the products mentioned above could easily be produced locally for our own markets. Since we cannot compete on price with what already exists, the question becomes where do we go from here. The first step is to unify more farmers through the cooperatives in order to collectively market some of the fruit that exists. We must concern ourselves with processing and storage facilities as well as product development.  If Japan can market 2000 odd items all made from loquat, can’t we develop at least a few hundred made from coffee? My belief is that we need to develop markets and products for what already grows well and is established in Hawaii, ( avocado, strawberry guava, banana poka, limes and many others that often fall and rot ), instead of forcing other fruit to grow that is already being sold at far less than our cost of production. Unifying and focusing on development is arguably the best place to start.