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Kikkoman aims to make global soy sauce splash

JIJI

Seasoning maker Kikkoman Corp. aims to achieve global soy sauce sales of 1 million kiloliters by 2020, a 2.5-fold jump from the current output of 420,000 kiloliters, officials said.

Kikkoman this month marked the 40th anniversary of overseas soy sauce production, which began at a plant in Fontana, Wisconsin. Over the past four decades, its trademark product has become a well-established seasoning in the United States thanks to the company’s promotion of soy sauce-based “teriyaki” meat dishes.

Last year, Kikkoman’s global sales of soy sauce and related products totaled 187,000 kiloliters, up from just 7,000 kiloliters in 1974. At present, overseas sales account for nearly half of the company’s global soy sauce sales.

The firm hopes to further expand sales abroad mainly by exploring emerging economies, and its annual production capacity is projected to total 256,500 kiloliters at seven bases, in the United States, China, Singapore, Taiwan and the Netherlands.

As domestic market shrinks due to Japan’s aging and shrinking population, Kikkoman faces the need to look elsewhere for growth.

Kikkoman is thus conducting market research to examine whether to start sales in Latin America and Africa, and is also considering acquiring halal certification for products that conform to Islamic law, to make a foray into Muslim countries.

When the Wisconsin plant project started in 1970, few people in the U.S. knew about soy sauce and some local residents strongly opposed the plant. But Kikkoman employees gradually won them over by visiting them and patiently explaining about the seasoning and its uses.

Among them were current honorary Chairman Yuzaburo Mogi, a leader of the project, and current President Mitsuo Someya, who worked directly under Mogi at that time.

The main purpose of Kikkoman’s Wisconsin factory was to reduce the costs of exporting soy sauce from Japan, but Mogi said the firm has gone far beyond that.

“By selling a major Japanese seasoning overseas, we have not only introduced the nation’s food culture abroad but also helped realize a richer food life globally through the amalgamation (of Japanese) and local foods,” he said.