Japan's Aeon aims to start selling eco-certified sushi in time for Olympics

Japan is one of the world's biggest consumers of seafood, eating around 33kg per capita. ST PHOTO: SHEFALI REKHI

TOKYO (REUTERS) - Japanese supermarket chain Aeon, Asia's biggest retailer by sales, said it aims to start selling eco-certified sushi this year amid growing demand for sustainable seafood and in time for an expected surge in tourists during the summer Olympics.

Japan is one of the world's biggest consumers of seafood, eating around 33kg per capita compared with around 5kg in the United States, according to Euromonitor.

While its consumers are known for paying a premium for high-quality food products, and for setting global food trends, Japan has lagged behind Europe and the United States in adopting policies on traceability and sustainable fisheries.

"I would say awareness has really improved in recent years," Mr Kinzou Matsumoto, general manager in charge of Aeon's seafood merchandising planning, said as the company on Tuesday (Jan 21) unveiled an expansion of its eco-certified line-up of seafood to include oysters approved by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC).

"Right now, certified items make up around 15 per cent of our entire seafood products. Ideally we want to bring it to around 20 per cent," he said, adding that it would soon have enough types of certified fish to assemble assorted sushi packs.

"We want to sell certified sushi to visitors coming to the Olympics, too... and that would have to be by June." The MSC said Aeon's scale would help expand recognition for sustainable seafood among the country's consumers, and encourage fisheries.

"A commitment from Aeon is critical in driving change," said MSC's Asia-Pacific regional director Patrick Caleo told Reuters.

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