Ryo Shimojo: Human network in The Netherlands is outstandingPublished: 01-09-2014
At Kikkoman, the specialist in naturally-brewed soy sauce, our goal is to be the world leader in our field. In 1997, we opened our first European production plant in the town of Sappemeer in the Netherlands. Sharing its borders with Germany, it is the perfect gateway to the major markets of European countries.
Ten years later, we decided to open a laboratory in the Netherlands, dedicated to research and product development aimed at anticipating European trends and markets. For example, we are investigating how we can reduce salt levels in our products and also in processed foods, which use our products as an ingredient, and we are also looking at the causes of gluten allergy – a very common condition in Europe, but not in our home market, Japan.
We chose to locate our R&D centre in Wageningen because of the strong track record of Wageningen University and Research centre (Wageningen UR) in nutrition sciences, sensory research and food technology, as well as the presence of fundamental and applied research facilities. Wageningen UR also offers us access to their impressive network of experts across Europe – from industries and academia to the European Commission in Brussels.
“Our R&D activities in the Netherlands have enabled us to bring a range of new products to the European market.”
Through our R&D activities in the Netherlands, we have already brought a range of new products to the European market, such as a gluten-free soy sauce. Furthermore, we have been able to achieve significantly-reduced salt levels in processed foods that incorporate our soy sauces. Our scientists have made important contributions to a scientific paper on salt reduction in food (1).
What I really appreciate about the Netherlands is the customer focus and the strong personal networks that exist. If I have, for example, a question that cannot be solved directly by experts from Wageningen University, I am – via Food Valley NL – brought into contact with experts from other institutions in the Netherlands or elsewhere in Europe until we find the best solution for our company. This would be impossible in Japan, where experts would try to solve the issue inside their own organization in order to safeguard their business advantage.
We will continue to contribute to the European market, producing new products and new research to promote healthy eating, through collaboration with European partners.
Mr. Ryo Shimojo: Research & Development Manager at Kikkoman Europe R&D Laboratory
1. Kremer S, Mojet J, Shimojo R (2009) Salt reduction in foods using naturally brewed soy sauce. Journal of Food Science; 2009 Aug;74(6): S255-62.