NEW YORK — Changes in current Japanese regulations as well as growing interest among Japanese consumers in new food experiences and ethnic flavors are driving this year’s big food trends in Japan. In 2015, Japan will see changes to its health claim labeling, which will impact its functional foods and beverages. Interest also is growing in non-dairy milk alternatives and fusion foods as consumers become bolder in their tastes.

Big changes in the Japanese functional food market make this top the trend chart for 2015.  The Japanese Consumer Affairs Agency will roll out a new health claim labeling system in 2015, which is expected to shake up the market and drive growth.  Compared to the current Foods for Specified Health Uses (FOSHU) system, the regulation is expected make non-disease health claims easier to label. Concrete guidelines for the new system will be announced in 2015 with implementation planned for during the 2015 Japanese fiscal year, which starts April 1.

Non-dairy milk alternatives offer a bright spot in 2015. According to a survey conducted by the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, soy milk production showed 8% growth CAGR between 2010 and 2013.

“While soy milk is already popular, almond milk and rice milk consumption is expected to grow among health-conscious Japanese consumers in 2015,” said Yuko Kobayashi, food ingredients marketing associate at Nagase & Co., Ltd. in Tokyo. “Compared to whole milk, almond and rice milks have fewer calories, lower fat content and are cholesterol free.”

Innovative fusions will be used to generate consumer excitement in 2015. Fusion baked goods, such as donut-croissants, garnered attention in 2014. In 2015, Japanese food manufacturers are expected to capitalize on this trend.

“The sheer number of recent product launches for fusion desserts in Japan will make this an area to watch,” Ms. Kobayashi said. “Already one of largest Japanese donut chains will launch a donut-Danish hybrid in January 2015.”

An ethnic trend expected to increase in Japan is Taiwanese cuisine. Popularity for Taiwanese desserts, including traditional shaved ice and bubble tea, drove the opening of a variety of Taiwanese dessert shops throughout Japan in 2014. In 2015, Taiwanese beef noodle soup will be on the rise. According to reports by the Japan National Tourism Organization, Japanese visitors to Taiwan reached over 1.4 million annually in 2013, a 9.5% increase from 2010.