Tomato Juice Flying Off Shelves After Article States It Helps Burn Fat

Tomato Juice in Japan
A supermarket employee lines up a new shipment of tomato juice bottles. Photo by Atushi Ozaki in Osaka the morning of February 15.

Tomato Juice Flying Off Shelves After Article States It Helps Burn Fat
Yomiuri Shimbun: トマトジュース売れすぎ…脂肪燃焼効果の論文で
February 15, 2012

Since an article was published on the 10th stating that a component in tomatoes helps burn fat, tomato juice sales have exploded, risking a supply shortage.

It’s another example of “Food Faddism”, in which consumers rush to buy goods that are declared to healthy and good for diets. This case is different from the last ones in that it originated from a published article rather than a television program, but supermarket and food production workers are still saying “Not again!”

At a supermarket in the heart of Osaka on the 14th, one customer after another asked employees, “Do you have tomato juice?” They shook their heads over and over and explained, “It all sold out at once, and our latest shipment hasn’t arrived yet…”

Daily sales for 900g bottles of the juice have tripled since last weekend and sudden sellouts have been common. Middle-aged men have been the most eye-catching bulk buyers. One, a 43-year old company employee, said “I heard it helps fight obesity. I’ll have to look in other stores,” he said regretfully. One supermarket employee commented, “We’re grateful it’s selling so well, but I also feel like we’re getting jerked around by a fad,” after which a bitter laugh bubbled to the surface.

This all started with a research paper published by a consortium lead by Kyoto University and food manufacturers which found that a component inside tomatoes decreased mice’s neutral fat levels. The research team qualified that “more experiments are necessary to confirm tomatoes’ effectiveness for diets” but stated that “three 200 ml servings per day would be appropriate for human beings.” The reasonableness of this requirement seems to have tickled consumers’ fancies.

Life Corporation, a consortium of 224 stores in the Kansai and Kanto areas says tomato sales have increased 50% and tomato juice sales by 400%; some stores are completely selling out of both, and even the flagship stores are starting to sell out. A spokesman said “we want to avoid a supply shortage” and stated that the corporation is seeking to secure these commodities.

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