Sweet bean paste gaining popularity in U.S., Europe

Courtesy of Toraya Confectionery Co.
A Toraya shop in Paris

TOKYO (Jiji Press) — Sweet bean paste, a key ingredient in traditional Japanese confectionery, has been gaining popularity in the United States and Europe.

A health-conscious trend has helped increase interest in sweet bean paste, which contains less fat than fresh cream and some other ingredients in Western sweets.

Japanese makers of sweet paste made from red beans and related products are trying to ride the tide to boost sales of their products.

Imuraya Group Co., based in Tsu, has been enjoying brisk sales of its mainstay Azuki Bar sweet bean paste ice pop in the United States. Exports of the product to the U.S. market have been posting double-digit growth annually since 2020, a company official said.

The share of overseas sales in Imuraya Group’s overall sales is expected to rise to 10% in fiscal 2023 from 4.5% in fiscal 2020.

Imuraya Group President Nobuko Nakajima said that Azuki Bar “has been accepted because it contains no additives, no coloring and no flavorings.”

Courtesy of Imuraya Group Co.
An Azuki Bar sweet bean paste ice pop sold in the United States

Kinoshita Seian, a sweet bean paste maker in the city of Saitama, has been selling products such as jellied sweet bean paste bars, or yokan, in Europe.

In 2022, the company provided sweet bean paste as an ingredient to pastry chefs in France to increase sales channels there, aided by the Japan External Trade Organization.

Kinoshita Seian aims at boosting sales by developing products that suit the taste of local consumers in terms of sweetness and other qualities, company officials said.

Courtesy of Kinoshita Seian
Varieties of sweet bean paste sold by Kinoshita Seian

Toraya Confectionery Co. is seeing sweet bean paste being accepted by consumers abroad. Since opening a shop in Paris more than 40 years ago, the Tokyo maker has been trying to make products that can attract local demand, such as yokan containing juice from cassis and other fruits favored by local people.

These days, “many customers are seeking authentic Japanese sweets,” a Toraya official said. Dorayaki pancake sandwiches with sweet bean paste filling and unbaked sweets are popular, according to the company.