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Japanese consumer co-operatives are the largest food retailers in Japan representing more than 25% of Japanese households, with a membership of over 20 million. The co-operatives have established direct supply relationships with fresh food producers as a means of ensuring product safety and freshness for their customers. Known as sanchoku, this direct supply is characterised by supply chain relationships that encourage close contact between producers and consumers. This paper outlines research conducted into the consumer co-operative movement and the requirements to access this large and growing market. It concludes that the co-operatives represent a significant opportunity for Australian food exporters to provide a differentiated product to the Japanese market. Case studies of two Australian producer groups that have used the research results to gain market entry to the co-operatives are highlighted, with generalisations made regarding the necessary considerations for producers wishing to export to Japanese co-ops.


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