Women flexing their muscles as product planners


Japanese companies are finally turning to their female employees for ideas on creating unique products tailored to women.

At Aux Co., a maker of household goods in Sanjo, Niigata Prefecture, four women in their 30s to 50s are the developers of a smash-hit series of kitchen utensils called Leye.

Among the most popular items are “yubisaki” (fingertip) tongs, which have an easy to use shape popular with people who want to pick up raw or malodorous items such as fish, meat and garlic without using their hands.

Because the tips of the tongs are slimmer than the conventional variety, they act just like fingers, according to Aux.

Another item in the lineup is the “sukueru” knife, which allows people to cut, scoop and serve food at the same time.

As of June, more than 1.18 million units of the 11 items developed by the Leye team had been sold, Aux said.

Team leader Noriko Ishiwata, the brainchild of the fingertip tongs, said she was tired of the time it took each morning to wash her hands every time she touched a different piece of food.

“I take notes about what I find inconvenient and they turned out to be very useful,” she said.

Many of her male colleagues were opposed to the tongs, saying it would just be quicker to wash your hands, but the other women supported her, Ishiwata said.

Michiko Murakami said the team’s all-women roster makes her feel free to discuss new ideas in meetings.