Date of Issue: December 2020 Issue  Category: Knowledge

Coronavirus Impact on Japanese Baking Industry - My Point of View in December 2020

Hello, everyone, I'm James Odaira reporting on Japanese baking industry from Tokyo, Japan.

It has been 11 months since the first covid case was found in Japan in the middle of January. The year 2020 has really been the year of covid-19 not only for the Japanese people but also for everyone on the planet earth.

As for Japanese retail bakeries, however, many of them seem to have been doing well. This is more likely the case with retail bakeries located close to or in the residential areas. I talked with many owners of retail bakeries, and knew that many bakeries in residential areas are getting 20 to 30 percent higher sales compared with the same period last year.

The bakery located close to my house, where I buy breads frequently, is also seeing a significant increase in sales. And the owner chef's mother, who is a sales staff of the bakery said, "More and more people are staying at home and they need something to eat more at home and less in their offices".

On the other hand, bakeries in office areas and downtown areas are experiencing a serious decrease in sales. The popularization of remote working has taken people away from office and downtown areas resulting in a tremendous decrease of the food needed there. Because the coronavirus pandemic has been lasting far longer than we expected, retail bakeries in office and downtown areas are having very hard times and trying to find a way out of the real disaster.

All retail bakeries both in residential and office areas, are operating their shops at various possible risks. One bakery owner said, "I am always worried that if just one of our staff test positive for coronavirus, we have to close the shop for a long time. And that could mean the termination of our shop".

To prevent covid cases from occurring in the bakery shops, they are doing everything they can think of. They wrap each of the bread products to prevent the droplets from the customers from falling down on the bread products. They place a disinfectant container at the entrance and have each customer disinfect their hands. They limit the number of customers who can stay in the shop at the same time. And of course, they are asking customers to wear masks.

In an emergency like this, various things in our societies are exposed to light from different angles, and their essence becomes clear unexpectedly, and it seems that some issues have been raised in the bakery industry as well.

One of them is whether or not it is OK to display naked breads while the customers are free to touch them. Since coronavirus transmission is said to be caused by infected droplets, breads should be displayed in a way it is shielded from outside. And all bread items should be individually wrapped, and should not be displayed naked for a long time.

There are various ways in which bakeries are trying to solve this issue, such as installing transparent vinyl covers on display shelves and packaging each bread individually.

Under the current situation where we are tackling the management issue caused by the coronavirus pandemic, I hope from the bottom of my heart that an epoch-making method that can effectively tell the freshness of just baked breads while realizing advanced hygiene management will be devised.

The spread of coronavirus infection has also increased the speed of working style reforms in our highly informed society. The traditional style of working with everyone gathering in one place is changing with the progress of information technology.

The coronavirus pandemic has unintentionally proved that what is happening in the pandemic is advantageous for community-based bakeries. In almost all community-based bakeries covered by Boulansserie, which is our monthly bread industry magazine, bread sales in February and March increased very drastically. Some bakery owners have said, "I see new customers that I did not see before," suggesting that the flow of people around the bakery has changed significantly.

It can be said that the spread of coronavirus infection has shown us in advance, various changes that will take place in our societies. We have to keep in mind that business evolution can be achieved only when business environments change drastically.