Kikkoman’s U.S. HQ turns 50

Kikkoman, the No. 1 soy sauce manufacturer in the United States by sales, is experiencing steady growth driven by its U.S. and international business, executives said Monday.

That international growth is important, Kikkoman Corp. CEO Yuzuburo Mogi said, because domestic consumption of soy sauce in Japan has been declining, mirroring Japan’s aging population.

Mogi spoke at a celebration in San Francisco’s City Hall honoring Kikkoman International, the Kikkoman Corp. subsidiary that launched U.S. operations with a San Francisco headquarters in 1957.

Kikkoman Corp. itself is more than 300 years old.

“When we first started doing business in America, soy sauce was considered an exotic condiment only available in Chinese and Japanese restaurants,” Mogi said, who said that publishing recipes in cookbooks and newspaper features helped the business grow, as did in-store demonstrations. “We saw that tastes were broadening.”

The effort to reach American palates was successful. Chef Sean O’Brien of local restaurant Myth said that growing up in Texas, Kikkoman was the soy sauce he learned to cook with, and he’s remained loyal since.

“It is remarkable if you think about the history and the legacy of this corporation,” which is older than the U.S., San Francisco Supervisor Aaron Peskin said. He said that today has been declared “Kikkoman Day” in The City in honor of the anniversary.

With $3.5 billion in worldwide sales for the year ending March 30, Kikkoman accounts for 60 percent of the U.S. household consumption of soy sauce, according to its own figures, and 30 percent of home consumption in its native Japan when including more than 1,500 village-scale soy sauce producers it owns.

Kikkoman promotes its slow-brewed soy sauce as superior to cheaper, more quickly-created versions. It sells more than 40 other sauces in the U.S., including teriyaki, as well as Pearl soy milk.

Kikkoman International employs 45 people at its San Francisco office, and 16 in satellite offices, while another subsidiary employs approximately 180 at two production plants in Wisconsin and Folsom, a spokeswoman said. It sources nearly 100 percent of its U.S.-consumed soybeans from U.S. farms, Mogi said.

While the U.S. and Europe remain important growth markets, Mogi projects that China — which has its own, different, and lower-cost soy sauce tradition — will grow more important in roughly a decade’s time, when there are more Chinese of higher income.

kwilliamson@examiner.com


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