In Japan, this breakfast staple is a coronavirus dieting trend for those gaining weight as they work from home.
Now a COVID-19 trend, oatmeal first gained popularity in Japan a decade ago, when the market for cereals like granola and oatmeal began to expand. For years, granola was the star of the show, outshining other new cereal options, but oatmeal has found a new demographic. Health-conscious buyers have begun to take note of oatmeal’s nutritional qualities, and convenient shelf life, and sales have gone up as consumers buy more of the easy breakfast basic for everyday use, and even to stock up in case of disaster.
For many in Japan, COVID-19 has meant an explosion in work-from-home days, just like we’ve seen in many parts of the world. Of course, all this work-from-home means an increasingly sedentary lifestyle, and all-too-convenient access to whatever snacks might be laying around in the kitchen. The trend of COVID-19 weight gain has sparked renewed and increased interest in the ever-popular topic of diet and weight loss on Japanese social media, and that means that popular health foods like oatmeal are on people’s minds.
This new popularity has brought more oatmeal options to shelves, with new products being launched all the time. Not only have more and more brands of oatmeal popped up in grocery stores, including American favorites like Quaker Oats, but cereal maker Kellogg’s has even released its own brand of oatmeal in Japan―a world first. Unsurprisingly, the land of cup noodles has quickly caught on to the trend of instant cup-oatmeal, which came onto the market in March 2021. The cups are popular as breakfasts and snacks for office workers now working from home, but for many Japanese people who have never tried oatmeal in their lives, the little cups seem to promise an easy way to experiment with the trendy new food.
Oatmeal isn’t the only oat-based product that has seen an uptick in interest since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. While soymilk has a long history in Japan, and almond milk has become its own trend among the health-conscious over the past few years, oat milk has become the third plant-based “milk” to build a notable presence on grocery-store shelves.
Along the same lines as oatmeal, oat milks like this new brand launched by Coca Cola promise a healthy milk alternative for anyone feeling the sin of sloth a little too acutely, and Coca Cola has even decorated the cartons with a smiling, oat-milk-drinking sloth mascot. The products are marketed in part to those working from home, advertising zero-cholesterol, high-fiber, and various other health benefits.
With the new products comes new gastronomic inspiration, and with so many people around the world using their time at home to learn to cook and experiment with new recipes, the oat-based ingredients have made for some interesting new discoveries in Japan. Forget the cinnamon-sugar oatmeal and fruit-filled overnight oats found on American breakfast tables, and instead, try this Thai-inspired Japanese oatmeal topped with fried eggs and vegetables in a Thai-style dressing! Japanese home-cooks have reimagined this basic breakfast as a new health-food ingredient, and a quick search on social media now turns up pictures of everything from Chinese-style chicken porridge oatmeal to oatmeal miso soup, and even little baked oatmeal balls topped with sesame seeds for snack time. It’s a whole new world of oatmeal in Japan!
To see some of this fantastic oatmeal creativity for yourself, just check the #オートミール (oatmeal) hashtag on Twitter or Instagram! For more info and updates from Japan, check Japankuru for new articles, and don’t forget to follow us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook!