Fancy bread consumption is on the rise in Japan, in concert with the spread of coronavirus.
In the midst of COVID-19, in Japan, business for “high-quality white bread” is booming. According to the Yomiuri Shinbun, sales for luxury bakery Ginza Nishikawa, based in Tokyo’s ritzy Ginza neighborhood, increased by 12.3% year-on-year from February 2020 to January 2021. Fluffy, thick-cut white bread called “shoku-pan” (食パン) is a low-cost staple at Japanese grocery stores, but at Ginza Nishikawa a loaf goes for 864 yen, easily three times the price of standard white bread. Yet demand is on the rise.
When reporters asked a Ginza Nishikawa customer in her thirties why she was buying her bread there, she answered that “it’s a small luxury during the COVID-19 situation.” This slightly lavish choice of breakfast toast seems to be part of a trend of “revenge consumption” or “retaliatory consumption,” getting back at coronavirus through little luxuries and extravagances.
The rapid increase in sales for this high-end bread is clearly connected to the extended hours that many Japanese people are spending at home due to COVID-19. Stuck at home all day with plenty of time for breakfast, but no chance of lunch with coworkers or a night out on the town, people are instead choosing to add a little indulgence to the most important meal of the day, and leveling up their morning toast.
This is not the first-ever high-end white bread boom in Japan. In 2013, the extra-fluffy loaves from bakeries like Nogami in Osaka and Centre in Tokyo introduced the idea that white bread could be a high-end product, making space for bakeries that focused on Japan’s unique white bread varieties.
But COVID-19 seems to have spread this white bread trend to households all over Japan. Kyoto, a city steeped in traditional Japanese culture, is slowly becoming a hotspot for bread and gourmet bakeries. According to a survey by the Japanese Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, the average bread expenditure per household around Japan was 8,233 yen last year, an overall increase of about 4%. Stuck at home due to coronavirus, the people of Japan are enjoying the little things in life, like a fresh loaf of high-end white bread.