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  • Features

Global Kitchen Series No. 14 - France

  • delicious Japan
  • April 2024
  • Vol. 18

Agricultural Counsellor
Ambassade de France à Tokyo

Can you briefly introduce yourself and your mission at the Embassy, Mr. Perdreau?

I am the agricultural counsellor at the French Embassy in Japan. I’ve been here for 2 years. We are a team of 3, our primary mission is to facilitate the trade of agricultural products between France and Japan with a view on legal, technical, and sanitary aspects. We also organize the promotion of French agricultural products to the Japanese public and serve as a contact point for discussions between French and Japanese administrations, ministries, and agencies regarding agricultural policies and products. We also work with various associations and NGOs interested in gastronomy and French cuisine.

What are the primary agricultural products imported to Japan from France?

Most of our exports are wine, and half are sparkling wine, especially Champagne, for which Japan is one of the main markets. But we also export a very wide range of other products, including a substantial quantity of dairy products such as cheese and butter, bread and bakery products as well as chocolate, ice cream, and jams... These products represent almost 2 billion euros annually imported from France for agricultural and food products. It makes Japan one of the main and oldest export markets for France in that sector.

What features of French agricultural products do you want to tell Japanese consumers about?

French products are known for their quality, but they are sometimes seen as a bit sophisticated. I would like to emphasize that French products can also be enjoyed in a simple way. In France, we do not wait for special occasions to appreciate our products. You don’t need to be a chef and make sophisticated recipes: French products can be enjoyed in everyday life and family meals. And they also pair very well with other cuisines around the world. Another major point about our products is that we are very committed to a production model that allows small producers to maintain tradition and know-how. In this regard, we feel quite close to Japanese agricultural producers, who also propose a wide range of local specialties all around Japan.

There are avid fans of French wine in Japan. What types of wine would you like to see further exported to the Japanese market?

Well, that’s a tricky question because Japan is a very particular market where you can already find almost every kind of French wine. In Japanese wine shops and supermarkets, you can come across a variety of French wines in terms of quality, price, and geographic origins. Many Japanese are also very knowledgeable about French wines. But if I had to choose, I would probably pick wines from my home region of Jura, especially vin jaune (“yellow wine”), It has a very particular taste. But it’s just one example, and you can probably find it already in Japan.

What do you find to be the chances or difficulties of the Japanese market?

The Japanese market is one of the most demanding ones. Its particularity is that Japanese consumers expect high-level quality in almost every aspect of food products: taste, packaging, sanitary quality, security, and customer service. And it takes a lot of time before you can attract attention from Japanese consumers. So, it’s a challenging market, especially for small producers. But once you secure a foothold in this market – as many French producers have succeeded in – you can thrive in every other market. Japan is a reference market in Asia, of course, and beyond. It sets the quality expectation at its highest.

Panier de produits du Sud-Ouest©Xavier Remongin

Can I ask about your plans to help French products take further root in the Japanese market?

As I mentioned, almost all products and market segments of high-quality products are already well distributed on the Japanese market. This is why we adopt a 360° approach, starting from the ground in France, where we advise French producers on how to better meet the expectations and specific needs of the Japanese market. Here in Japan, we work on the expectations of new types of customers and communicate on innovative products that deserve support. To develop further the love for French products in Japan, we must take into account new generations’ preferences and propose new ways to enjoy fantastic food and wine.

Are you planning any joint food & wine events between France and Japan in 2024?

Many events celebrating French food and wines take place throughout the year in Japan. Our n°1 event every year is the Shibuya French Festival. This festival, a B2C event targeting Japanese consumers, is organized every spring all around Shibuya. If you’re curious about French products, you can also look up our “Taste France Magazine” online: it’s specifically designed for Japanese customers, and displays recipes, demonstrations from chefs and all kinds of information about French products. France will also be represented at major Japanese B2B food events, like FOODEX, and will propose a range of BtoB oriented events for professionals throughout the year.

And what do you like for Japanese food?

I love everything about Japanese food! From my perspective, living in Japan is a wonderful experience because it allows you to experience food not known outside of Japan. Of course, foreigners have all tried Sushi or Sashimi before coming to Japan. Still, while living here, you can enjoy dishes like Nabe or Sukiyaki, which are more traditional and offer diversity. I also enjoy raw fish a lot. It’s tough to find this quality of raw fish when you’re not in Japan.

What about Japanese sake? Have you tried it before? What are your impressions?

I’ve tried Japanese sake before coming to Japan, but clearly, the best way to enjoy it is with Japanese food. It’s very well suited for Japanese cuisine, and it is an alcohol that has a wide range of nuances and possibilities, so you need time to learn how to enjoy it. Did you know that sake is getting very popular among French consumers too? It’s a new world to discover!

Thank you. Do you have any additional comments?

There is a French product for every time of the day, from breakfast to dinner, lunch or snacking!

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