NAGOYA - Demand for precooked ingredients for use by cooking staff at supermarkets and restaurants is increasing in Japan, with many such establishments facing difficulties securing experienced chefs amid an ongoing labor shortage.
According to the Japan Ready-Made Meal Association, the country’s market for nakashoku, or prepared foods intended for consumption at home, including bento and deli dishes, rose 2.2 percent from the previous year to ¥10.1 trillion in 2017, up for the eighth consecutive year.
Such foods, which save time spent on cooking and washing dishes, are increasingly popular as the number of dual-income families increases.
Shortages of cooking staff are often a problem for supermarkets and convenience stores, many of which have sought to expand sales of deli dishes and bento in recent years.
“We don’t have many experienced or young cooking staff,” an executive of a midsize supermarket said.
Food-makers are taking advantage of the situation.
Kagome Co. has been promoting ingredients, such as its cooked vegetables, for the nakashoku and restaurant industries, emphasizing that even inexperienced cooking staff can handle them easily.
Demand is surging for prepared items, such as sauteed onion, which requires time and experience to cook, a Kagome official said.
Maruha Nichiro Corp. offers businesses frozen food products that can be eaten after they are thawed, including teriyaki mackerel and grilled chicken.
This spring, the company also launched production of processed chicken that can be easily cooked in six different ways.
Tomoyuki Yoshinaga, president of seasoning-maker Mizkan, said he has heard complaints from middle-aged cooking staff that his company’s large-size seasoning products for businesses are heavy and difficult to use.
In response the Handa, Aichi Prefecture-based firm plans to expand its lineup of seasonings in smaller containers.