Reflective of the thriving ties between Japan and the United States, Japanese cuisine remains one of the most popular foreign cuisines in North America.
According to Japan’s Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries, there are more than 120,000 Japanese restaurants around the world, nearly 25 percent of which are in North America.
With the arrival of the first Japanese immigrants at the start of the 20th century, America started its love affair with the exotic flavors and dishes from Japan. This growing fondness has much to do with the efforts of the Japanese food industry to share its cuisine with the world.
“The United States is a global trendsetter. Evidence of this is the increased popularity of ramen and sushi around the world after its success in the United States. The invention of the California Roll here in the United States has also certainly increased the acknowledgement and acceptance of Japanese sushi,” said Otafuku Foods USA President Taka Ozawa.
Founded nearly a century ago, Hiroshima-based Otafuku is committed to popularizing Japanese dishes like okonomiyaki, yakisoba, and takoyaki, among others, around the world but has decided to first focus on the U.S. market.
By opening a manufacturing site for its sauces in Los Angeles, Otafuku Foods is staking its overseas growth on North America.
“At the U.S. plant, we have adapted our ingredients to reflect the preferences of the local market. For instance, we do not use MSG. We can make gluten-free products and have opted for more natural ingredients to cater to the many vegans and vegetarians here,” Ozawa said.
Otafuku is also able to work with large retailers and restaurant chains to create customized blends and sauces.
“Our responsibility is not only to grow our business, but also to share our culture with the world,” Ozawa said.