one of summer's favorite drinks--lots of ice, a jolt of espresso
and lots of ice-cold milk. But at Dotour Coffee, the nation's
largest coffee shop chain, customers are increasingly (and
unexpectedly) asking for soy milk instead of milk in their
cafe lattes. Dotour saw a chance, and used the growing popularity
of soy milk to attract more health-conscious consumers.
was listed in the top third of our products sold at our 120
directly operated stores," Dotour's Akiko Otaka said.
Starbucks also has increased the number of its branches, mainly
in Tokyo, that stock soy milk from three to 10 since its Japanese
outlets started offering the product in 1999. The chain charges
and extra Y50 to substitute soy milk for regular milk.
foreign customers would request soy milk because they can't
drink dairy milk," said Kazuko Nakada, a spokeswoman
of Starbucks Coffee Japan, "and now we get the same request
from Japanese Stores that offer soy milk are one of our ways
of satisfying customers."
year, according to the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries
Ministry, 67,000 tons, or approximately 550 grams per capita,
of soy milk was consumed in Japan. Sales from January to March
this year rose 37 percent from the same period last year.
expect this will become our second biggest soy milk boom,"
said Atsuchi Kanda, director general of the Japan Soy Milk
Association. "In 1983, the market hit a record consumption
of 117,000 tons. That was before labeling regulations were
implemented. Consumers often found that soy products contained
only a small amount of soybeans but were sold with exaggerated
claims of health benefits," Kanda recalls. As a result,
consumers lost trust in the industry and soy milk consumption
had dropped sharply to about 25,000 tons by 1999.
the soy milk craze seems to be making a welcome comeback.
Kanda believes Japanese have started to reacquaint themselves
with soy milk as a health food product, thanks to glowing
health benefits of soy milk are vast. It is cholesterol-free,
low in fat, high in protein and contains balanced essential
amino acids, vitamin E and minerals such as iron, potassium,
magnesium and zinc. Although some of these advantages were
reported as long as 20 years ago, recent research has shown
that soy isoflavones, a protective phytochemical found in
soy beans, can prevent breast and prostate cancers as well
think people here are keen on the soy isoflavones," Kanda
says. "They are eager to increase their intake, in light
of an increase in the rate of such diseases---possibly because
of increasingly Westernized diets." Although soy isoflavones
are found in all soy products, such as tofu and natto, soy
milk is an effective source due to its convenience and because
its absorption rate is higher than that of other soy products.
soy isoflavones, concerns over bovine spongiform encephalopathy,
or mad cow disease, which first broke out in Japan last year,
may also have affected soy milk sales. "Though the government
reported there was no need to worry about cow's milk, I just
can't trust them," said Kanako Katayama, a 39-year-old
who recently made the switch from regular milk to soy milk.
"I started drinking soy milk for the first time since
my childhood because I thought it was safer." Katayama
also pointed out that soy milk tastes better than she remembers.
of the Japan Soy Milk Association says: "People used
to say the flavor of soy milk was too strong. Now, because
of advanced technologies in soy milk production, it tastes
better than it did 10 years ago."
Japan has a lot of catching up to do if it wants soy milk
to become as popular here as it is in other Asian countries.
For instance, Chinese traditionally enjoy a morning cup of
warm, sweetened soy milk, and Korean noodle dishes are served
with soy milk-based soups.
milk can be used in cooking without any problems," says
Harumi Noda, owner of Ecru vegetarian cafe in Daikanyama,
Tokyo. "It tastes more natural and healthier than dairy
strongly that soy milk is healthier than cow's milk, Noda,
who has written the vegetarian cookbook, Vegetable Lovers,
serves a variety of soy milk-based drinks and dishes at Ecru.
Popular choices include Soy milk chai (Y680) and Non-dairy
Blancmange with Black Sesame Sauce (Y600).
experimented with a lot of products when I was planning the
menu, and fount that plain, fresh soy milk is good to use
in cooking, but a bit difficult to use in drinks," she
said. "So I use sweetened soy milk to make chai."
using soy milk in cooking does not compromise taste, Noda
insists. "You can't truly enjoy eating and drinking if
you feel it's just healthy, but less tasty," she said.
By Hiroko Kato
Copyright 2002 Hiroko Kato. All rights reserved.