Ajinomoto Co., Inc. (味の素株式会社 Ajinomoto Kabushiki gaisha) is a Japanese food and biotechnology corporation which produces seasonings, cooking oils, frozen foods, beverage, sweeteners, amino acids, and pharmaceuticals. AJI-NO-MOTO (味の素, "essence of taste") is the trade name for the company's original monosodium glutamate (MSG) product. The corporation’s head office is located in Chūō, Tokyo. As of 2017, Ajinomoto operates in 35 countries and employs an estimated 32,734 people. Its yearly revenue in 2018 is around US$10.2 billion.
|Traded as||TYO: 2802|
TOPIX Large 70 Component
|Founded||17 June 1917|
(as S. Suzuki & Co. Ltd.)
|Headquarters||Chūō, Tokyo, Japan|
Number of locations
|Takaaki Nishii (President & Chief Executive Officer)|
|Products||seasonings, cooking oils, frozen foods, sweeteners, amino acids and pharmaceuticals|
|Revenue||¥1,127 billion (FY 2018)|
|¥53 billion (FY 2018)|
|¥39 billion (FY 2018)|
|Total assets||¥1,394 billion (FY 2018)|
|Total equity||¥687 billion (FY 2018)|
Number of employees
1907–1944: Origins and expansionEdit
Ajinomoto Co., Inc. was created in 1908 as a subsidiary of Suzuki Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd., itself founded in May 1907 by Saburosuke Suzuki II. Ajinomoto was created to allow Dr. Kikunae Ikeda, a Professor at Tokyo Imperial University, to sell the wheat monosodium glutamate seasoning that he had invented. Ikeda created the seasoning after discovering that monosodium glutamate was the source of a flavor that he named "umami." In April 1909, Ajinomoto presented Ikeda's seasoning under the brand name “AJI-NO-MOTO” at a new product exhibition event in Tokyo, and began selling the product the next month. Ajinomoto primarily marketed the seasoning to housewives by using their trademark, a housewife in an apron, in newspaper advertisements, on signboards, and on ground stamps.
Output gradually increased, increasing from 4.7 tons in 1910 to 23.3 tons in 1913, with sales reaching 400,000 yen. In 1914 Ajinomoto built a new factory in Kawasaki to expand its production of the flavoring. Japan's improved economy after World War I resulted in output hitting 84.6 tons and sales reaching 1,563,000 yen in 1918. Despite rising sales, Ajinomoto experienced a deficit during its first ten years due to altering its methods of production and lowering its prices to get its product into ordinary households, among other reasons. Because of rising Japanese exports after World War I, Ajinomoto opened offices in New York and Shanghai in 1917 and 1918, respectively. In 1918 Ajinomoto exported 20.5 tons of its seasoning, accounting for a quarter of total sales. The company opened new offices in Singapore and Hong Kong in 1927 and in Taiwan in 1929 to distribute their product throughout Southeast Asia. Between 1920 and 1929, revenue from the sale of the seasoning rose from 2,799 thousand yen to 10,543 thousand yen, largely due to increased exports of the product to foreign markets.
To lower the cost of mass producing the seasoning, its wheat was replaced with soybeans, since the price of soybeans at the time was lower than that of wheat. In the United States, the seasoning, labeled by the FDA as a "Vegetable Protein Derivative," sold poorly on the consumer market. Despite this, in 1931 Ajinomoto expanded their operations in the United States due to recent mass orders of the seasoning by H.J. Heinz, Co. and Campbell Soup Co.. Between 1931 and 1937, seasoning production increased from 1,077 tons to 3,750 tons, with revenue rising from 13 million yen to 27 million yen. Due to Japan's increasing isolationism in the late 1930s, the production of AJI-NO-MOTO declined from 3,750 tons in 1937 to 2,339 tons in 1940. Due to World War II, by 1942 production of the seasoning had been reduced to 1,000 tons, ceasing altogether by 1944.
1945-1979: Post-war Japan and diversificationEdit
After World War II, Ajinomoto was slow to resume production of its seasoning as its factory had been destroyed and it lacked sufficient funds to continue production. In April 1946 the company changed their name to the Ajinomoto Co., Ltd. In 1947 production of the seasoning resumed, in addition to the production of new food products such as nucleic acid-based seasonings and processed foods. In May 1949 Ajinomoto was listed on the Japanese stock exchange. By 1950 exports accounted for 95% of the company's revenue, with exports to Southeast Asia, Europe, and the United States increasing in subsequent years. In Europe, AJI-NO-MOTO was used as a seasoning by many processed food manufacturers, including Maggie GmbH and C.H. Knorr AG. In 1950, sales in Japan resumed after the lifting of postwar sales controls, surpassing pre-war sales by 1953.
In the 1960s, Ajinomoto began to diversify its production by securing alliances with international food companies, including The Kellogg Company in 1962, CPC International Inc. in 1963, and Best Foods Company Ltd. in 1964. Because of these partnerships, Ajinomoto began selling Kellogg's corn flakes and Knorr soup in Japan and created their own brand of mayonnaise. During this time period, Ajinomoto modified the recipe of AJI-NO-MOTO by using amino acids from sugar cane instead of soybeans. This allowed the seasoning to be produced locally in the countries it was exported to, which would reduce shipping costs for the company. Domestic production first began in Thailand in 1962, followed by the Philippines, Malaysia, Peru, Indonesia, and Brazil in subsequent years. By 1979, nearly half of all AJI-NO-MOTO was being produced outside of Japan.
In the 1970s, Ajinomoto diversified further, launching a flavoured seasoning called “Hon-dashi” in 1970 and beginning production of frozen foods in 1972. In 1973 Ajinomoto and General Foods Inc. launched Ajinomoto General Foods Inc., a joint venture between the two companies that would sell instant coffee. In 1978, Ajinomoto launched a brand of Chinese seasonings under the brand name “Cook Do.” In Asian and Latin American markets, Ajinomoto created new products for consumers, while in Europe and the United States, the company primarily delivered its products to processed food manufacturers. During this era the company also expanded into other product markets. In 1956, the company began supplying crystalline amino acids for pharmaceutical use, contributing to the world's first release of amino acids infusion. In the 1960s and 1970s, they developed feed-use amino acids, pharmaceuticals such as enteral nutrients, and speciality chemicals such as surfactants.
1980–present: Expansion and restructuringEdit
In the 1980s, due to the worsening of the Japanese economy, Ajinomoto sought to outsource more of their production overseas. Because of this, the number of employees the company employed overseas rose from 4,000 in 1979 to more than 11,000 in 1996. Starting in 1980, Ajinomoto began to refocus its diversification efforts from their food products to their amino acid business. Following the USFDA's re-approval of aspartame in 1981, the Ajinomoto began producing the sweetener at their Tokai factory in 1982. In 1987 Ajinomoto began conducting research on drug development in the fields of clinical nutrition, anti-cancer drugs, infectious diseases, and cardiovascular drugs. Through this research, they developed ELENTAL® for use in clinical nutrition, LIVACT® used in fighting liver disease, in addition to developing Lentinan in collaboration with the Japanese Foundation for Cancer Research. Ajinomoto later released JINO as a cosmetic and amino acid for athletes, followed by "Amino Vital", a supplement to it released in 1995. In 2000, Ajinomoto acquired NutraSweet and 'Euro-Aspartame' from Monsanto.
In April 2002 Ajinomoto reorganized to have food, amino acid, and medicine divisions, in addition to owning subsidiaries for frozen foods and fats and oils. In February 2003, Ajinomoto and Unilever completed a joint venture agreement in six countries and regions of Asia. Because of this, Ajinomoto launched their own brand called "VONO®" to replace their use of the "Knorr" brand, in the process establishing their own brand identity. In July 2003, Ajinomoto bought the French company Orsan from the UK-based Tate and Lyle group, renaming Orsan to AJI-NO-MOTO Foods, Europe. In November 2005 AJI-NO-MOTO Pharmaceuticals USA, Inc. was liquidated and its assets and functions were merged into its European counterpart, AJ-NO-MOTO Pharmaceuticals, Europe. In January 2006 Ajinomoto bought the cooking sauce and condiments manufacturer Amoy Food from the French dairy product company Groupe Danone. In 2009, the company released "Ajinomoto®" to commemorate the 100th anniversary of its foundation.
In 2010, due to a rise in foreign competition, Ajinomoto began restructuring to focus on several of their products while divesting others. The company divested its Calpis beverage unit in 2012, the Ajinomoto Sweetener Company in October 2015, and Amoy Food in November 2018. Ajinomoto decided to focus on its food and biomedical divisions, acquiring the contract manufacturing organization Althea Technologies in 2013, the frozen food company Windsor Quality Holdings, Inc. in November 2014, and the frozen food company Lavelli · Terrell · Smile in November 2017. In April 2016, Ajinomoto merged its pharmaceutical division with Eisai, launching EA Pharma.In October 2017, Ajinomoto introduced a “Global Brand Logo” for use throughout the Ajinomoto group. In December 2017, Ajinomoto announced that they started construction of an expansion of their Kawasaki Plant, along with the construction of a new R&D building. In October 2018, Ajinomoto Althea and OmniChem united to form Ajinomoto Bio-Pharma Services.
In 1909 Ajinomoto Co. Inc. released their umami seasoning "AJI-NO-MOTO®", which is currently made from molasses and tapioca starch derived from sugarcane. In Asia and Latin America, the product is primarily sold to consumers, while in North America and Europe it is mostly sold to processed food manufacturers. In 1970 Ajinomoto launched the bonito flavoured seasoning "HON-DASHI®" in Japan, later adapting the product to other markets with local flavors. In 1978 Ajinomoto released "Cook Do®", a series of Chinese cuisine seasoning products. Ajinomoto later added other cuisine seasoning flavors to the Cook Do product line. Ajinomoto entered the frozen food business in 1972, and currently sells a variety of frozen food products, including dumplings, noodles, and cooked rice. In 1982, Ajinomoto Co., Inc. launched the amino-acid based sweetener aspartame and entered the sweetener business. In 1984 they released a low-calorie consumer sweetener "PAL SWEET." Ajinomoto Co., Inc. is the world's largest manufacturers of aspartame, sold under the trade name Aminosweet. Ajinomoto also currently sells soup, mayonnaise, porridge, pasta sauce, and instant noodles under the “VONO®” brand name. Through Ajinomoto AGF Corporation, Ajinomoto sells instant coffee, regular coffee, bottled coffee, and stick coffee, and canned coffee, and is the top coffee brand in Thailand with a 70% market share.
The Ajinomoto Group started an animal nutrition business in 1965 and subsequently established an international production and supply system for amino acids to be used in feed. Ajinomoto developed a Lysine preparation called "AjiPro ®-L" for lactating dairy cows, which allows the Lysine to reach the intestine without being broken down in the stomach.
Ajinomoto has developed mild cleansing agents such as "Amisoft®" and "Amilite®" and humectant emollients such as "Eldew®” and "Amihop®." Ajinomoto also conducts manufacture on assignment for companies such as Daiichi Sankyo Healthcare Co., Ltd. for the development of their moisturizing detergent "Minon®". Ajinomoto developed its resin functional materials business using the technology obtained through the production of sodium glutamate. It has also developed interlayer insulating materials for semiconductor packages for use in personal computers. The company is testing the feasability of using its product to cover smartphones, tablet computers, and lighting and display technology.
The Ajinomoto Group's healthcare business is based on using the fermentation technology of amino acids. In 1956, Ajinomoto began producing the world's first amino acid infusion, enteral nutrition products, and crystalline amino acids, that could be used as raw materials in pharmaceutical products. Currently, Ajinomoto manufactures around twenty kinds of amino acids at various factories overseas, including plants in Japan, the United States, Europe, and India. Through utilizing new fermentation technology and introducing highly productive bacteria, they are able to develop various new fermentation processes. In 1995, Ajinomoto began selling an amino acid supplement called "Amino Vital" for professional sports athletes. In 2011, Ajinomoto began offering an "Amino Index®" health checkup, which statistically analyzes the difference in amino acid concentration between healthy individuals and adults suffering from cancer and other serious diseases to aid the early detection of cancer and other diseases. In addition to glutamates as a seasoning, the company also produces other amino acids such as L-Leucine, L-Tyrosine, Glycine, L-Phenylalanine, and several others, which it markets as dietary supplements under the brand name AjiPure. Ajinomoto also provides manufacturing and development services for pharmaceutical intermediates and drug substances for pharmaceutical companies.
- Ito Masatoshi, Chairman
- Takaaki Nishii, President
- EtsuHiroshi Takafuji, Senior Managing Executive Officer of Food Business Division, Advertising, Olympic and Paralympic Promotion Office
- Fukushi Hiroshi, Senior Managing Executive Officer of Amino Science Business Division
Ajinomoto currently operates separate divisions for North America, Latin America, and Asia, with Europe, the Middle East, and Africa being combined into the "EMEA" division. Ajinomoto also owns dozens of subsidiaries globally for its food, biochemical, and healthcare businesses.
Lysine price fixingEdit
In 1986, the Ajinomoto Group began producing Lysine in their Iowa factory of Heartland Lysine Co. U.S.A. followed by production in their Pathum Than factory in Ajinomoto Thailand in 1986, and Bio Italia, BioPro in Italy in 1992, gradually upgrading their worldwide production bases. In the United States, competitors were also trying to increase Lysine production, resulting in pricing issues due to an overabundance of Lysine on the market. To raise prices, several companies price fixed Lysine in the 1990s. Along with Kyowa Hakko Kogyo, and Sewon America Inc., Ajinomoto settled with the United States Department of Justice Antitrust Division in September 1996. Each firm and one executive from each pleaded guilty as part of a plea bargain to aid in further investigation. Their cooperation led to Archer Daniels Midland settling charges with the US Government in October 1996 for $100 million, a record antitrust fine at the time. The cartel had been able to raise Lysine prices 70% within their first six months of cooperation.
The safety of monosodium glutamate, as related to the corporate image of Ajinomoto, has been a point of discussion since its inception. The discussion began as early as 1910 in Japan, with unsubstantiated rumours relating to the use of serpents in the raw materials. Since the 1940s, safety concerns have been voiced several times by public institutions in both Japan and the United States. Additional concerns included the Chinese Restaurant Syndrome in the 1960s and the call for greater regulation on the use of MSG, which was based on the work of Professor John Olney, in 1969. In 1996, the FDA commissioned the Federation of American Society for Experimental Biology (FASEB) to study the effects of MSG and they concluded that it is safe for the majority of people. At that time, Ajinomoto also noted the possibility that asthma patients and carriers with symptoms of Chinese Restaurant Syndrome symptoms may be affected, but ultimately, the safety of this group was also confirmed by the subsequent test results in the United States and Australia.
Indonesian pork incidentEdit
In early 2001, Ajinomoto was involved in an incident in majority-Muslim Indonesia when it emerged that a pork-based enzyme had been used in its production of MSG. Immediately after the incident, the Food and Drug Administration of the Indonesian Government stepped up to announce that AJI-NO-MOTO's end product did not contain pig-derived substances. Additionally, AJI-NO-MOTO also announced that their products were derived from soybeans. Both announcements sought to solve the problem at an early stage.
In 2008, Ajinomoto sued British supermarket chain Asda, part of Wal-Mart, for a malicious falsehood action concerning its aspartame product when the chemical was listed as excluded from the chain's product line along with other "nasties". In July 2009, a British court found in favour of Asda. In June 2010, an appeal court reversed the decision, allowing Ajinomoto to pursue a case against Asda to protect aspartame's reputation. At that time, Asda said that it would continue to use the term "no nasties" on its own-label products, however, the suit was settled out of court in 2011 after Asda removed references to aspartame from its packaging.
- Ajinomoto Stadium
- Monosodium glutamate
- Glutamate flavoring
- Kikunae Ikeda
- Tien Chu Ve-Tsin
- Glutamic acid
- Disodium glutamate
- Monopotassium glutamate
- Disodium inosinate
- Guanosine monophosphate
- Inosinic acid
- Adenosine monophosphate
- Aspartame controversy
- Motoko-chan no Wonder Kitchen
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- Commemorating the Centennial of the Discovery of Umami『AMBITION』
- 『100 years of the AJINOMOTO GROUP』Chapter 1, Item 1, Page 47（in Japanese）： Retrieved 20 December 2017
- 『Short History of MSG』, Jordan sand, 2015 Fall Gastronomica P38
- Retrieved 20 December 2017
- 『100 years of the AJINOMOTO GROUP』Chapter3 Progressing, Item1, Page 139-143 Retrieved 20 December 2017
- Retrieved on 20 February 2018
- 『100 years of the AJINOMOTO GROUP』Chapter4 During World War Ⅱ,Item 3, Page 204 Retrieved 20 December 2017
- Retrieved 20 February 2018
- 『100 years of the AJINOMOTO GROUP』Chapter5 Business Development after World War Ⅱ, Item 2 , Page 229 : Retrieved 20 December 2017
- 『100 years of the AJINOMOTO GROUP』Chapter 5 5–6 List of business expansion（in Japanese）, Item 2, Page 240： Retrieved 20 December 2017
- Retrieved 20 December 2017
- 『100 years of the AJINOMOTO GROUP』Chapter 6 Diversification and Globalization, Item 2, Pages 304–315: Retrieved 20 February 2018
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- "Ajinomoto Moves into CDMO Market". News: Inside Industry. Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News. April 1, 2013. p. 12.
- "味の素グループ、米国におけるアジア食＊の冷凍食品Ｎｏ.１のウィンザー・クオリティ・ホールディングス社の全持分取得を完了". プレスセンター | 味の素グループ | 味の素グループ、米国におけるアジア食＊の冷凍食品Ｎｏ.１のウィンザー・クオリティ・ホールディングス社の全持分取得を完了 (in Japanese). Retrieved 2019-01-09.
- "味の素（株）、フランスの冷凍食品会社ラベリ・テレトル・スージェレ社の全株式取得を完了". プレスセンター | 味の素グループ | 味の素（株）、フランスの冷凍食品会社ラベリ・テレトル・スージェレ社の全株式取得を完了 (in Japanese). Retrieved 2019-01-09.
- "エーザイ株式会社の消化器疾患領域事業と味の素製薬株式会社の事業統合による消化器スペシャリティ・ファーマ「EA(イーエー)ファーマ株式会社」発足のお知らせ". プレスセンター | 味の素グループ | エーザイ株式会社の消化器疾患領域事業と味の素製薬株式会社の事業統合による消化器スペシャリティ・ファーマ「EA(イーエー)ファーマ株式会社」発足のお知らせ (in Japanese). Retrieved 2019-01-09.
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- "Ajinomoto Althea and OmniChem Combine to Form Ajinomoto Bio-Pharma Services, Reflecting a Collective Range of Services Offered to the Bio-Pharma Industry".
- "味の素社、タイのトップブランド「Birdy(R)」缶コーヒー第２工場稼働 旺盛な需要に応えて、安定供給体制を構築〜投資額４５億円、本年７月より本格稼働〜". プレスセンター | 味の素グループ |味の素社、タイのトップブランド「Birdy(R)」缶コーヒー第２工場稼働 旺盛な需要に応えて、安定供給体制を構築〜投資額４５億円、本年７月より本格稼働〜 (in Japanese). Retrieved 2018-07-24.
- "味の素（株）、１回の採血で生活習慣病発症リスクと現在のがんの可能性を評価する「アミノインデックス(R) リスクスクリーニング（ＡＩＲＳ）」新発売 ４年以内の糖尿病発症リスク等を評価する検査を追加～２０１７年１１月より全国で発売開始～". プレスセンター -味の素（株）、１回の採血で生活習慣病発症リスクと現在のがんの可能性を評価する「アミノインデックス(R) リスクスクリーニング（ＡＩＲＳ）」新発売 ４年以内の糖尿病発症リスク等を評価する検査を追加～２０１７年１１月より全国で発売開始～.
- "AminoIndex™ Risk Screening (AIRS™) Catching Cancer Before It Starts" (PDF).
- "AjiPure®—Better Amino Acids Make Better Proteins". Swanson Vitamins online store. Retrieved 14 June 2017.
- "About Our Company". AjiPure official website. Retrieved 14 June 2017.
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- RODERICK, DAFFYD (22 January 2001). "Hold the Pork, Please" – via content.time.com.
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