Organic Products Are Still Going Strong
Thursday, December 28th, 2017 | 1609 Views
Demand of organic produce is on the rise as consumers are placing emphasis on how their products are produced and processed. By Farah Nazurah
Organic foods often have more beneficial nutrients, such as antioxidants, than their conventionally-grown counterparts. Also, as harmful chemicals are not used in organic farming, there is minimal soil, air, and water pollution; thus ensuring safer and healthier products. Toshimichi Furuno, president, Shimane Organic Farm Company Limited gives advice on how organic producers from Japan and the rest of Asia can retain customers whilst ensuring their processes are sustainable and traceable.
Why did the company venture into the organic products market?
The company was established in 2004 year and we focus on producing quality traditional Japanese food and functional health foods as well.
Our fields and facilities are located in the Shimane Prefecture, Western Japan, and it is one of the most ecological regions in Japan. We produce, process and sell organic superfoods and we have Japanese Agricultural Standard (JAS)-Organic certificates for producing, processing and re-packing. Cultivation and processing of final product-oriented materials are achieved together with the introduction of materials dependent on customer needs.
In an era of rapid change and movement, the development of an increasing range of products is only natural; however, we do not simply aim to produce a large number of products, but we make an effort to make high quality products with the conscious intention of not unnecessarily raising the number of items produced. We also ensure our products are safe, reliable and tasty so that customers keep returning to our products.
Our main products include health tea, organic dry vegetable powder, organic dry vegetables, and premium organic spices.
How can superfoods help consumers become healthier?
There’s the popular phrase that goes: “We are that we eat”. Additive-free 100 percent organic superfoods contain nutrients in the most easily assimilated natural forms.
For example, these are a few superfoods that we produce which provide health benefits, and the addition of even a small portion every day helps people be healthier.
- Mulberry leaves: For dieting and reducing of blood sugar level.
- Barley grass: Helps with constipation.
- Adlay grass (Job's tears): Has anti-ageing properties
- Ginger root: For improving of blood circulation.
- Oat grass: Has anti-ageing properties
- Kale grass: Helps with women’s health
How does the company ensure its product lifecycle is sustainable and traceable?
We produce our organic ingredients following strict procedure guidelines. This includes the washing of raw materials, separation of foreign substances (checking metals of metals, etc.), controlling of temperature and moisture level, storage conditions, etc.
This year, we have started a daily photo report for all agricultural works. This way, we can trace for lot numbers or expiration dates as well as who, when and the type of instruments that were worked on the product.
Our internal standards on the product’s taste, colour and quality are very high, and will not sell any products which do not meet these standards.
What are your insights on the organic market trends in Japan and the rest of Asia Pacific?
The organic market in Japan and the rest of Asia pacific is growing, thus raising more opportunity for organic producers and distributors. The market for organic products is increasing rapidly, but the production volume has not been able to meet market demands due to Japan’s strict requirements for organic producers.
For example, in Japan, a farmer or company who wants to register their fields as organic can only start to produce organic products after two or three years (the preparatory period) after registration. Should any natural disasters such as floods occur, and the organic field is flooded, farmers can only restart production at that field after a period of quarantine, which lasts one year. For this reason, organic producers in the country produce the volume the market demands but on our side, we are doing our best to meet the expectations of our customers.
What do Japanese consumers look out for when they are purchasing organic products?
Consumers in Japan look out for the JAS-Organic logo, minimal number of additives and also the price, as organic products tend to be more expensive than non-organic ones. The most popular organic products are vegetables (fresh and dry) and beverages such as teas, juices, smoothies etc. But Japanese consumers still have a low level of knowledge about organic products. For example, many consumers do not clearly understand the difference between organic products and products without agricultural chemicals.
What is your advice for organic producers who want to expand and enter other markets in Asia Pacific?
It is very difficult to provide general advice because different manufacturers have different resources and market advantages etc. First of all it is necessary to understand customer needs, and what customers consider important in product selection: taste, external appearance, minimal number of additives, organic certification, and processing methods.
After which, manufacturers can leverage on their strengths to prepare their products for their targeted markets. And of course, it is necessary to note that customer preferences and trends tend to change constantly.
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