Sharing your passion for Japan is at the heart of FOODEX Group. Tell our readers about the company’s business in France and across Europe.
Our history started in 1992 in Paris. It is important to remember the scenario at that time; limited numbers of Japanese restaurants, unawareness of Japanese ingredients, few retailers and shops in France and relatively underdeveloped networks between Japan and Europe.
However, we were viscerally motivated to create and were animated by a tremendous passion and excitement to live our dreams and make people aware of Japanese cuisine which is full of flavors, rich in colors and constantly evolving through Umami. Our vision; “to make the Sushi market easily accessible to all” came to reality when the first Sushi stores opened in 1995 under the names of “Sushi Shop” and “Planet Sushi”. A newly emerging market began to grow and today, thousands of Sushi Kiosks can be found throughout Europe selling this amazing and refined cuisine.
Over time, we developed a “One stop shop” marketing strategy to deploy almost the totality of essential Japanese products with an efficient supply chain. Our development has enabled us to identify key markets and today we operate our business across nine countries in Europe from West to East and have more than sixteen controlled temperature warehouses.
We are now consolidating our solid basis to achieve sustainable growth among our subsidiaries. We are also strengthening our corporate values by further pursuing excellence in quality and flawless service, demonstrating the spirit of challenge, embracing and value diversity and taking the initiative.
This will be done by keeping an eye on early signs of changes in the business environment, allocating appropriate management resources to high priority fields and rebuilding business structures.
What factors have enabled FOODEX Group to remain competitive and successful for almost thirty years?
At the beginning, the foundations of our organization and our strategy were to build an enduring competitive advantage by establishing attractive niche market positions in the Japanese food industry. We started out in France, then Switzerland, followed by Italy, Belgium, etc. and now we cover borderlessly from Portugal all the way to Poland. We gathered the right capabilities and competencies with committed teams in each country to deliver a flawless service to our customers. I’m so proud of our committed teams. FOODEX Group now consists of more than 420 employees, servicing almost 12,000 customers across Europe.
We never compromise on quality as well. FOODEX Group was the first Japanese F&B importer with ISO 22000 certification in France and we strictly deal with the European regulations, permanent quality control and operate effectively even with the overseas suppliers’ constraints. Our strong relationships with our suppliers and producers allow our group to determine import conditions as required by our customers.
Today, with the level of uncertainty following the pandemic, we are adapting our business. Uncertainty can be a huge challenge in implementing a strategy. Therefore, we are always on the lookout for changes, innovations, food and its industry trends, and new ideas. We have our own “antenna” tuned to “signals of change” and quickly act to refine, redesign or reinvent our business model. Our goal is to become a leading company in Europe while taking into account the new environmental insights and growing local customer demands. We have a wealth of experience and this reinforces our expertise. Times have changed and we must become experts at learning how to do new things – this is challenging and also exciting.
FOODEX Group successfully established the Atelier du Saké in 2015. What initiatives can we expect from the company in 2021/2022?
Our parent company is Takara Holdings in Japan. Takara Group has its origins in “Sake” making in Fushimi – Kyoto in 1842 and founded Sake and various alcoholic beverages and seasonings’ producer “Takara Shuzo” in 1925.
The history of our Group companies goes back approximately one hundred years and FOODEX Group also has a long relationship with Japan and the country’s food and beverage industry.
Initially, passion and desire were evident, but it was difficult to present an alcoholic beverage fermented from rice to European consumers. The production process was seen as more of a beer than a wine, yet, sake is not carbonated and flavor-wise it is closer to wine than beer – although uniquely different from wine. Sake is not a distilled beverage and is not related to gin, vodka or other spirits.
To educate the market and its consumer, we created and dedicated a team under the leadership of Maryam Masure (Sake Sommelière) and meet with key people in the industry who are also passionate about Sake, such as chefs, bartenders and restaurant managers. Today, the Sake market is growing day by day and more consumers accept and enjoy this new beverage. Sake popularity is increasing all around the world, as people say “a rising tide lifts all boats!”
Our teams within the FOODEX Group are well-trained and are committed to expanding our “Atelier du Saké” showrooms and sharing our imported Sake line-up in major markets across Europe. We plan to create new sales channels, involve producers, develop new flavors with new origin, continue our selection of attractive brands and above all, prepare the landscape to help create a “mass market evolution” for Sake. We are the source of information, innovation and provide customized tastings, so consumers can learn the “Sake basics” and enjoy Sake even more.
How do you see the French – Japanese relationship developing, both in terms of trade and appreciation of one another’s culture and cuisine?
As a brief snapshot, Sushi restaurants started to “spring up” in the US market in the mid-1970s. Sushi became
a fashionable and healthy food in major cities such as LA and New York, and then this trend was gradually brought back to Europe by the European travelers who came to the US and experienced this brand-new Japanese concept.
Japanese cuisine has taken root in Europe over the past decade, with Sushi restaurants opening all over the continent. As a country surrounded by the ocean, Japanese food culture is also fixated on fish, vegetables and Sake. We can identify the same notions concerning France with its history, food culture and “way of life” characteristics. Over time, a variety of Sushi recipes became popular, Japanese Chefs (e.g. Nobu) gained recognition, incredible connections were made and associated marketing strategies impacted this trend.
The number of Japanese restaurants in France and Europe has rapidly increased since 2000 and has continued to rise every year in line with the widespread acceptance of Japanese food culture, the variety of price ranges available and easier access to Sushi through kiosks and stores. Growing recognition of the importance of a healthy diet to maintain good health has contributed to an unprecedented Japanese-food boom.
The greatest change taking place in eating habits in recent decades has been the replacement of home-cooked dishes with food prepared outside home. Sushi, Japanese noodle dishes (Ramen, Udon, etc.) and Japanese-style lunch box (Bento) are now available via home delivery service and supermarkets now sell “prepared” ethnics foods such as Sushi and Ramen. Japan’s contribution to global food culture is driven by its quality and the authenticity of dishes marketed to the European countries.