Market Research in the US and Europe is a Science! |An Interview with a Japanese Researcher with Experience Overseas (1)

In this series of posts from the front line of global market research, we would like to discuss how market research methodology differs from within Japan and overseas, including the latest overseas market research methods, and information to make global market research more familiar to our readers.

As appropriate for a first issue, we’d like to interview Mr. Kawaguchi, a market researcher with extensive experience overseas, who will introduce the current situation in Japan, Europe, and the United States.

First of all, could you give us a brief description of your background and area of focus?

My focus is in global food marketing. As one of the leading experts in perceptual research in Japan, I am primarily involved in consulting with manufacturers about their overseas market development using a scientific approach. In 2000, I moved to the U.S. to study sensory science at the University of California, Davis, and in 2010, I established the Perception Research Institute in Davis, CA, where I support global corporate projects.

What led you to do research at the University of California?

When I was working in a Japanese think tank, I was in charge of global project, which gave me the opportunity to collaborate with the University of California. My first encounter with Western scientific research methods was when I was at the University of California. When I saw how they used science to design research and evaluation methods, I thought to myself, “What is this sensory science? It is unrivaled.” Therefore, I decided to study at the University of California, the home of sensory science.

You mentioned that your research was done in the food engineering department. Why is there a research lab in the food engineering department?

The University of California, Berkeley and UCLA are well-known universities, but Davis was originally the College of Agriculture, where a wide range of research is conducted, from agricultural research to food industry research, as would be expected in California, a major agricultural state. The campus of U.C. Davis is one of the largest in the U.S., with its own airfield, vast ranches and farms, and wineries stretching to the horizon, all of which are essential to American agriculture. There, all kinds of research related to agriculture and food are conducted, including biotechnology and experimental cultivation research, as well as soil, environmental, production and processing, and distribution studies. Research on taste and deliciousness is also essential to the food industry, but for this, the accuracy of the questionnaires when having people evaluate the results is crucial. These results also affect research in the production and processing of foodstuffs, so market research is in the food engineering department.

What kind of relationship to you have with food products?

In truth, I have been involved in the food industry since I was a child, as my father was a pastry chef and I helped out in the family business for as long as I can remember. Even at a young age, I was well aware that “deliciousness” is strongly influenced by not only taste, but also by appearance and aesthetics. Although I eventually chose the path of researcher rather than producer, I feel that I have somewhat inherited what my father had been working on.

Certainly, food culture differs country to country, but is the research situation different from that in Japan?

While I was first struck by what was happening at the University of California, I was also impressed by the fact that market research has been established overseas as an academic discipline and science, extending to brain research and neuroscience. I am embarrassed to say that, at the time I was confident in my research skills in Japan. I was trained by my superiors and worked hard to master what they knew. In Europe or the United States, however, there are textbooks for this, where one could theoretically absorb these skills in school. In other words, knowledge and know-how that is only available to the staff of market research companies in Japan is freely available and accessible to anyone overseas. This alone shows how fundamentally different the research situation in Japan is to overseas.


Thinking about it, one could say that the greater the role market research has, the more active the science and educational efforts behind it are. It makes you wonder why research is not conducted scientifically in Japan. In the next interview, I would like to learn more about the differences between research in Japan versus overseas, including the background to market research in both places.

If you have any questions about the content of this interview, please feel free to contact us.

First Published: 2018-09-06

Revised: 2023-06-27

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