Food makers aim to benefit from declining rice prices

Courtesy of Ajinomoto Co., NH Foods Ltd., Ebara Foods Industry Inc. / Jiji Press
Products released by food manufacturers that can be used to make side dishes for rice

TOKYO (Jiji Press) — Major food makers are launching products to help people easily make dishes that go well with rice, a staple food in the nation, at a time when prices of the grain are on the decline in contrast to rising prices of wheat and other food items.

In anticipation of higher demand for rice on the back of its falling prices, these companies are trying to catch the hearts of consumers who are tightening their purse strings amid a series of price hikes for foods, including flour-based products, and other goods, partly blamed on the yen’s ongoing weakness and the fallout of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Ajinomoto Co. has rolled out new products from its signature Cook Do Chinese-style premixed sauce series.

The new items are for making a bowl of rice topped with stir-fried meat and vegetables, including a Shanghai-style sour-sweet sauce for pork and vegetables such as bok choy, a type of Chinese leaf vegetable.

“We carefully tried to achieve high qualities that go well with rice,” an Ajinomoto official involved in developing the new items said of the thickness and taste of the products.

The premixed sauce products allow people to cook authentic and nutritious Chinese food in a frying pan, according to the official.

Ebara Foods Industry Inc. has released new soup base products for “nabe” hot pot dishes featuring yakiniku grilled meat, which is seen as one of the most popular foods going well with rice in Japan.

Meat is grilled in a pan first and then stewed with vegetables and the soup base, according to the company.

Grilled meat is not normally used in nabe, a typical dish for winter in Japan.

A public relations official at NH Foods Ltd. said the company has received requests from supermarkets and other clients that they want to improve their lineups of food products that go with rice in the face of rising wheat prices.

In response to the calls, the firm renewed its Chuka Meisai chilled precooked Chinese-style dish series that requires users to add only one vegetable and cook the ingredients in a pan.

NH Foods newly added to the series a mayonnaise and oyster sauce mix that contains stir-fried chicken. Users have only to cook mushrooms with the sauce mix in a pan. The product was developed as prices of mushrooms are stable year-round, company officials said.

According to preliminary data from the agriculture ministry, wholesale prices of 2021 rice in July this year averaged ¥12,593 per 60 kilograms, down about 10% from a year before.

Rice prices have been on a declining trend because of a change in dietary habits and a slow recovery in demand from restaurants amid the COVID-19 pandemic.