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Food delivery in Japan - statistics & facts

With the rapid increase in technological possibilities and the almost ubiquitous spread of the internet throughout Japanese society, consumer-oriented food delivery is in the process of its next evolutionary step. Food delivery has a long history in Japan, taking the shape of consumer cooperatives which delivered (and still deliver) food to individual customers’ homes. More recently, the dissemination of the internet, coupled with wide use of smart devices, has opened the doors for online groceries and increased business possibilities for restaurants. Food delivery is turning into an increasingly important segment in the foodservice industry, showing overall continuous growth despite the adverse effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on other areas of the foodservice industry. The food delivery industry in Japan (excluding institutional food delivery such as medical meal services) can be roughly divided into three separate segments, namely online food shopping (and delivery), co-op food deliveries, and restaurant deliveries. In terms of market size, co-op food deliveries and online grocery shopping are currently much bigger than the restaurant food delivery segment. That being said, the restaurant food delivery business has expanded remarkably since the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, as demand soared in reaction to restrictions on mobility.

Community-based retail co-ops

Food delivered via consumer cooperatives, or so-called “co-ops”, is the oldest and possibly most established segment of the food delivery industry. Among the different types of co-ops, community-based retail co-ops are responsible for food deliveries. Community-based retail co-ops comprise the majority of subscribers and generate the most revenue among consumer cooperatives in Japan. The national average household subscription rate to community-based retail co-ops is close to 40 percent, with some prefectures exceeding 50 percent. Consumer cooperatives work on a subscription-based model. The majority of ordered goods are fresh foods and groceries, which are delivered periodically to the customer’s door. Different from online groceries, products are seasonal and mostly regional. A community-based retail co-op delivery is more than a simple service – it encompasses a holistic approach to products, attaching importance to concepts such as solidarity towards the various stakeholders in the food production and consumption chain. Community-based retail co-ops typically value community engagement, strive for environmental soundness in the production and disposal process of goods, and aim for natural and healthy products. The stated purpose of the Japanese Consumers’ Co-operative Union, the federal association assisting and coordinating co-ops in Japan, is to “create a more humane and sustainable society”.

Impact of COVID-19

The advent of the COVID-19 pandemic had a negative influence on the foodservice industry overall, especially the restaurant segment. During much of the pandemic, the general public was asked to stay at home. This created a boom in food delivery demand in online grocery purchases as well as in restaurant food deliveries, particularly during the periods of declarations of a state of emergency in the metropolitan areas of the country. Foods and groceries were the leading products purchased more frequently online during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is likely that the pandemic will cause long-lasting changes to the food delivery industry in Japan.


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