Japanese Supermarkets Get a Taste of U.S. Medium Grain

Japanese Supermarket Trade Show, women wearing pink aprons serve rice samples to two men standing in front of display case
Made to order at the USA Rice deli
Feb 22, 2019
TOKYO, JAPAN – At the Supermarket Trade Show here last week, the USA Rice booth was set up like the deli corner of an actual supermarket to showcase U.S. rice to the Nakashoku (prepared foods and take-out) industry at the retail level.  More than 88,000 supermarket buyers, foodservice companies, and prepared food manufacturers attended the three-day event, one of the largest food industry trade shows in Japan.  

USA Rice introduced bento lunch boxes and inarizushi (sushi wrapped in fried bean curd) featuring U.S. medium grain rice, highlighting the rice’s light texture, blendability with seasonings and other ingredients, and adaptability to cold dishes.  

“We had five kinds of lunch boxes and two different inarizushi – a traditional inarizushi and a new style Inari-SUSHI, the name we coined and use in Japan,” said Yumi Kojima, the USA Rice contractor in Japan who attended the show.  “We also had three different U.S. medium grain taste-testing rice items, including olive rice (cooked with sliced olives and olive oil), traditional inarizushi, and curry flavored Inari-SUSHI.”

The olive rice is an innovative use of rice for bento boxes since traditional bento boxes always feature plain steamed rice.  The two different inarizushi were prepared to show how suitable U.S. medium grain is for sushi.

“Both the new style bento and Inari-SUSHI dishes were well received by the many visitors who stopped by the USA Rice deli counter,” said Kojima.  “Most people admitted they could not tell it was U.S. medium grain used in the traditional inarizushi, and they were intrigued by the curry flavored Inari-SUSHI.  We talked with several food industry executives on how to proceed with future product developments using U.S. medium grain for take-out items.”

The rise in local rice prices in each of last four consecutive years has pushed the Nakashoku industry to pay greater attention to U.S. medium grain rice.  “Our new approach to traditional food concepts has helped gain and hold that attention,” concluded Sarah Moran, USA Rice vice president international.