Skip to main content
Asian flavor straight outta Foodex

Driving change: Asian food trends ahead!

The Asian food scene is driving change within the whole industry – innovative and ever-evolving as it is. This year's edition of Foodex, Asia's largest food and drink fair, just took place in Tokyo, Japan and we sent a team from Greenfood and Picadeli overseas to learn more. Because as we all know, curiosity and a desire to innovate is also a major part of Greenfood’s DNA. So – let’s crack open the fortune cookie and look into the significant Asian food trends! 

Timesaving tech solutions

The future-like vending machines in Japan has been the talk of the town for a long time. But recently, they evolved. From mainly providing drinks and snacks – to serving everything from freshly baked bread to chilled versions of dishes from high-end restaurants. The machines are filled with soup noodles, sashimi, wagyu steak and even caviar. One can wonder, when will the first ever Picadeli vending machine come to life?

And speaking of tech – robots are becoming increasingly popular, and in Japanese cafés and restaurants, robots serve as ordinary staff. You can find robots taking orders, preparing sushi, or even flipping pancakes. This trend aims to improve efficiency – but honestly, it also reduce labor costs.


With no human in sight

In Japan, the personal space is important. Society is designed to avoid disturbing each other, a principle that is truly reflected in the field of dining and gastronomy, and in the Japanese food trends. In restaurants, you order via apps, the food is served through a hatch or by a robot, and seating arrangements are designed so that diners face away from each other. Solo dining is a clear standard almost everywhere, providing rapid micro-breaks for eating alone in silence and engaging with others only through screens. And if you need more information, you don’t look for eye contact, you look for a QR code. The whole society is actually cluttered with QR codes – and very much so the green sections in the grocery stores.


One heartwarming example though, because there’s a different type of avatar-run space that’s actually proving meaningful human interactions. DAWN (Diverse Avatar Working Network) is a cafe where robots are the staff, operated remotely by individuals facing severe physical disabilities. These operators, known as 'pilots,' can control the robots from their homes – whether from a wheelchair, bed, or using devices like a mouse, tablet, or gaze-controlled remote. The diverse avatars of the future are, indeed, here!

Super fancy fruits and vegetables 

… or actually, just ordinary fruits and vegetables packed as luxury goods. In the Japanese stores there is indeed a spotlight on fresh produce, with presentations that resemble an exclusive perfume shelf or a jewelry department. And even more interesting: there are specific luxury stores for fruit. We might not aim for the fancy packages, but we should indeed draw inspiration from their reverence for fruits and greens

Forget the bottle of wine and the bouquet of flowers. Japanese grocery stores have shelves full of gifts... in the vegetable departments.

Bring an apple

Forget the bottle of wine and the bouquet of flowers. Japanese grocery stores have shelves full of gifts... in the vegetable departments. Exclusive fruits packed as gifts are just as desirable as anything else. Why? Fruits offer more than just visual appeal and delicious flavors; they also embody the essence of each season through their distinct colors, aromas, and tastes. Furthermore, their perishable nature ensures that they can be enjoyed without cluttering one's home. In other words, a Marie Kondo-approved gift.


Ultra-fresh and seasonal – timing is on the rising

At Foodex, our team noticed a focus on ultra-fresh food. Seasonal produce is in the spotlight – with each season offering its own unique flavors. The details, stories, the growers perspective, the taste and feel – everything was mixed together into the essens of the season. It's obvious that the Asian food market is experiencing a revival of interest in seasonal vegetables and fruits. 


And speaking of timing: hours, not days was presented on the production stamps and best before-labels. Another emerging trend on the theme of ultra-fresh food is the practice of serving raw, or even alive, food in restaurants. The raw ingredients are then prepared at the table, or basically eaten raw. As fresh at it gets!

And finally, one funny and interesting trend that our team met on the subject of timing: food packages with instructions telling you at what exact time to have your meal. 

And now: taste trends!

Foodex 2024 was indeed a celebration of Umami. The fifth flavor profile discovered in Japan as early as 1908 is found in plenty of Asian dishes. Wasabi, shiitake mushrooms, kelp, and fermented products like soy sauce and miso are go-to choices for umami lovers. But at Foodex, it was clear that Umami isn’t just a flavor profile of Asian foods – it can be found in a variety of meats, fish and shellfish. And it keeps evolving!

Foodex 2024 was indeed a celebration of Umami.

Another interesting detail: Among the 3000 exhibitors and the food and products they presented, our team found almost nothing containing dairy. No milk, no yoghurt, no dairy foods in sight! The few European exhibitors did not break this trend. Instead, they displayed wine, olives, a lot of meat, and the rest of the world brought colorful lifestyle products to Foodex, as a tribute to the Manga culture. Also plenty of plant-based alternatives. But above all, the rich non diary portfolio is a true inspiration for us.


Plastic is everywhere

Compared to other countries, consumers in Japan are confronted with an overwhelming amount of plastic packaging when shopping at supermarkets. Even though the food industry has been trying to reduce plastic usage in Japan, there is still a long way to go here. And needless to say, the fresh produce section is no exception.


So – to sum it up...

The tech friendly and traditional but yet innovative food scene of Asia is thriving. We already incorporated some of the insights in our product development, throughout the entire Greenfood Group. 

Do you want to learn more? Don’t hesitate to contact Kristoffer Sunér, group sustainability manager and healthy food lead at Greenfood and one of our team members that visited Foodex 2024.

Eat your greens