Online sales of frozen bread catch on in Japan

TOKYO (Jiji Press) — Frozen bread products made by bakeries in various parts of Japan are attracting online demand as people are limiting travel to avoid contracting the novel coronavirus.

Pansuku, a flat-rate monthly service to deliver frozen bread, stuffed rolls and pastries from popular bakeries across the country, has hit a milestone of 10,000 subscribers in the 1½ years since its launch.

The service is so popular that consumers have to wait up to three months to sign up.

One fun part of the service is that subscribers do not know which one of about 30 bakeries they are getting products from until they arrive.

Products are packed in specially made bags so it tastes like fresh from the oven when unfrozen and heated. Bakeries, for their part, do not need to have special facilities for shipping.

“Because they can secure customers in advance, bakeries can avoid baking excessively and stabilize their sales,” said Kenta Yano, president of Pan For You, the Kiryu, Gunma Prefecture-based operator of the service.

The number of bakeries in town has been decreasing because of lack of business successors and intensifying competition with convenience stores. In the meantime, bread sales are strong on the back of the westernization of the Japanese diet and the popularity of premium products.

In October, Kaneka Corp., a chemical maker that sells bakery yeast, launched an online shopping mall focused on frozen bread.

As of Tuesday, about 30 bakeries from 17 of Japan’s 47 prefectures were selling products on the dedicated cybermall, called Pan Musubi, with more expected to join.

“We aim to have 100 shops,” an official in charge of the business said.

In April, Odakyu Department Store Co. started an online shopping service covering nearly 30 bread brands in the country specially selected by its buyers.

“Assortments, something that tastes sweet and products from well-known bakeries are especially popular,” an official of the Tokyo department store said.