Soft Osechi Meals Brighten New Year’s For Elderly

Soft osechi meals brighten New Year’s for elderlyPeople who find it hard to chew or swallow food, or are on restricted diets due to illness, also want to celebrate the New Year season with a traditional feast of osechi foods.
Thanks to a mix of advanced technologies and creative cooking skills, a wide variety of osechi meals that cater to the elderly are now available, providing box sets of soft foods that are easier to eat.

Easy to order

Many osechi meals can be ordered at stores or online until the latter part of this month. The ease of ordering and the wide selection makes this a popular option.

Companies that provide meals for people under nursing care also make and sell osechi meals for the elderly, and hotels and food makers sell osechi sets with foods that are cooked until tender.

Fukunao, a maker of nursing care meals, sells the Yawaraka Osechiju set, which has already sold out this year. It contains a nimono simmered dish with gobo burdock root and grilled fish with Saikyo-miso. Cooked in a special process to reshape foods while keeping the ingredients’ flavors, these dishes are soft enough to be eaten using one’s gums.

Fukunao uses its parent company’s paste production techniques, which are mainly used to produce kamaboko fish cakes, to produce a binding element for each ingredient.

The company first started selling the osechi meal in 2011, and sold about 300 sets. In 2015, sales reached 3,000, a complete sellout of its stock.

This year, Fukunao added a dish using even softer food that can be eaten without chewing.

Company dietitian Hitomi Edani said, “We want elderly people who come home temporarily from nursing care facilities for New Year’s to be able to enjoy the meals with their children and grandchildren.”

Keeping shapes, colors

The priority for nursing care meals has been tenderness. It is standard to finely chop ingredients before using starch to make them into stew-like dishes, or to make them into pastes.

But from around the year 2000, makers started stepping up their efforts to maintain the shapes and colors of ingredients in an effort to create more appetizing-looking dishes, leading to higher satisfaction among elderly consumers.

EN Otsuka Pharmaceutical Co., which serves meals for those in nursing care, sells its iEat Shogatsu Nidanju Set for ¥4,980, including tax. It contains kakuni stewed square-cut pork, which is soft enough to be eaten without chewing; chirashizushi sushi rice topped with various ingredients; and two other dishes.

The company uses a digestive enzyme to process the food to make it much softer than usual. Many of the consumers are elderly who require level-5 nursing care.

Companies selling regular osechi meals have also beefed up their product lineup by including options for elderly consumers.

Osaka Dai-ichi Hotel’s Yawaraka Osechi series is packed with bite-size foods and dishes that are cooked until soft. Winning praise for its tastiness and presentation, it is now available in more department stores.

A Nidanju two-layer box set for ¥19,440 can be served at a bigger gathering as it contains a selection of regular dishes as well.

Health-conscious option

Kibun Foods Inc. offers an osechi meal that is easy to eat and takes various health concerns into consideration. It contains kamaboko fish cake using half the normal amount of salt and nishime simmered dishes that are cooked until soft.

Priced at ¥7,560, the meal is popular among elderly people on a restricted diet. Since hitting the market in 2014, sales have at least doubled each year.

This winter, the company added a set featuring datemaki rolled omelette and kamaboko that use only half the normal amount of carbohydrates.

“Osechi dishes using reduced salt and carbohydrates should meet the health needs of all family members,” said a Kibun official in charge of the osechi products.