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Labor shortage prompts Mitsui & Co. to offer food catering services for seniors


Labor shortage prompts Mitsui & Co. to offer food catering services for seniors
Mitsui & Co. was featured in CareTEX 2024, Source: Mitsui & Co.

Japan, renowned for its rapidly aging population, grapples with multifaceted challenges in catering to the needs of its seniors. Amidst these challenges, addressing dietary requirements stands out as a crucial aspect of elderly care. In response, companies are innovating to ensure the health and wellness of Japan's aging population.


Among these innovators is the retail business infrastructure unit of Mitsui & Co., a leading multinational conglomerate based in Japan. Having ventured into the market four years ago, Mitsui & Co. is providing food production and catering services to seniors in hospitals, nursing homes, and other facilities.


Despite being in its Proof of Concept (POC) stage, Mitsui & Co. has already onboarded over 3000 facilities for its food service program. Yuki Hiro, General Manager of the New Project Development Department within the Retail Infrastructure Business Division, highlighted the company's efforts to address the pressing issue of labor shortage in kitchen facilities, with many workers being elderly and nearing retirement age.


Leveraging resources


Mitsui & Co.' processed food for seniors
Mitsui & Co. processed food for seniors. Source: Mitsui & Co.

Leveraging its expertise in food resources, products, and retail, Mitsui & Co. has expanded its services to include catering for seniors at facilities. Hiro explained, "We have established a procurement mechanism for food ingredients, providing a one-stop solution from ingredient procurement to production and catering service. With insights from Mitsui's subsidiary, Aim Services, we are able to understand the actual demands and feedback from end-users in facilities.”


Additionally, the company offers cooked packs that seniors can conveniently heat and eat, reducing labor costs associated with meal preparation. Using these cooked packs can also provide various combinations in the menu, ranging from appetizers, main dishes, and desserts.

Labor shortage prompts Mitsui & Co. to offer food catering services for seniors
Yuki Hiro, General Manager of the New Project Development Department within the Retail Infrastructure Business Division, Mitsui & Co.

Expanding business models


From facilities to end customers, the demand for diverse meal options is increasing. Mitsui & Co. has been retailing a wide range of food materials and products through major retail shops in Japan. With this close partnership, the company foresees the sale of senior-friendly food packs in supermarkets as well as convenience stores in the near future.


"This aligns with a significant portion of the elderly population who choose to age in place, within their homes and communities. Therefore, by leveraging retail channels, we aim to make it easier for our elderly family members to purchase food and enjoy their daily meals," said Hiro.


Overseas expansion


Looking beyond Japan, Mitsui & Co. aims to export its successful model to Hong Kong, Taiwan, and potentially North America, where it already provides services to senior housing facilities. Recognizing cultural differences in dietary preferences, Hiro emphasized the importance of adapting offerings to local tastes. For instance, Mitsui & Co. tends to collaborate with local partners to source and produce local favorites, catering to the unique needs of each market.


As Mitsui & Co. continues its expansion and innovation efforts, its commitment to addressing the challenges of senior living remains unwavering, offering hope for improved quality of life for seniors not only in Japan but also across the globe.


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