National

Hyogo firm uses sweet buns to teach disabled about product development, sales skills

Kyodo

A bakery and cafe company in Nishinomiya, Hyogo Prefecture, is working to improve the wages of people with disabilities by offering know-how on product development and sales of sweets.

Esquerre developed and started selling Imoma:ru — buns with sweet potato paste filling. Sweet potatoes are cultivated and processed by workers at a welfare facility for people with disabilities in Hitachinaka, Ibaraki Prefecture, made into a paste at a factory in Kobe and then stuffed into buns at another welfare facility in Nishinomiya.

Takao Misawa, 55, who heads Esquerre, said it was difficult for the facilities to sell products they made because they didn’t have the know-how on product development and marketing. “They also tend to purchase machinery at the seller’s price, putting them at a disadvantage,” Misawa said.

There is a system under the law to let people with disabilities who have difficulty finding a regular job to work part time without an employment contract, but the average monthly pay is just ¥15,000, according to the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry.

Misawa said he hopes to make the project profitable so people with disabilities will be given a living wage.

The buns are sold online at ¥120 per piece.