• Feature

Kameda Seika Aims to Become a Global Food Company

Evolving from a “rice cracker and snack manufacturer” to “the ‘Better for You’ food company”
  • delicious Japan
  • November 2021
  • Vol. 13
We interviewed Mr. Ichiro Nishikura and Ms. Eri Udagawa, driving force behind Kameda’s mission to “deliver delicious plant-based protein”, at their office in Tokyo.

Ichiro Nishikura
General Manager
Food Business Div.

Eri Udagawa
Marketer & Strategist
Food Products Dept.
Kameda Seika is Japan’s biggest rice cracker brand, so why are you teaming up with a meat substitute company now?

Working towards Kameda’s long-term vision of becoming a global food company, our medium-term management plan sets our motto of “Better for You”, which refers to “Contribution to a healthy lifestyle through the selection, eating and enjoyment of things that are delicious and good for the body”. We are focusing our efforts on our food business, as we aim to evolve from a “rice cracker and snack manufacturer” to “the ‘Better For You’ food company”.
In 2019, we formed a group and entered business with Maisen of Fukui Prefecture, a manufacturer and distributor of plant-based foods and rice breads. That was the start of our effort, uniting the whole Kameda Seika Group, to research ways to deliver delicious plant-based protein to our customers. Kameda’s PBF story began there.

In June you announced the start of a joint development project with NEXT MEATS, and in July you started a capital and operational partnership with Green Culture.

We can’t build the plant-based meat market by our own efforts alone. We want everyone to work together to build it. We’ve partnered with NEXT MEATS, which has its roots in Niigata Prefecture like us, for joint development in the PBF field. We will apply our skills in mouth feel expression and diverse flavoring, which we built up in developing cracker products, to developing PBF products in future.
Green Culture has been accumulating PBF expertise since 2011, and its strengths are advanced formation technologies and detailed flavoring. The technologies in mouth feel and flavor creation that we at Kameda have learned over many years of cracker production are applicable to some aspects of Green Culture’s product creation.

Why did you choose to partner with new, young companies?

Through partnering with young companies like this, we aim to learn their sense of speed and to create a sustainable future together. There aren’t so many startup companies. We’re looking widely at partner companies. The changes in the industry are really intense. We want to work together with partners to broaden the marketplace. Kameda has diverse channels of business development, so we want to join with partners who think it would be interesting to team up with us, so that we can prosper together and expand the market.

What is Kameda’s future goal for this field?

Our goal in the world of PBF and PBM/meat substitutes is not the plant-based meat field. We want to build a market where beef, pork, chicken, and PBF line up side by side. We want Kameda to be recognized as a player in that market. We aspire to great-tasting PBF! That’s the foundation. And we will be advancing “Better for You” foods.

Producers of plant-derived meat are proliferating in Japan and overseas. How do you plan to differentiate yourself?

For many years we’ve been working on making rice and grains into tasty things in various forms. We can apply those skills in meat substitutes too. We want to disseminate different kinds of PBF by making rice and grains into delicious flavors and textures. Soybeans have been the main raw material so far, but in future there’s potential for making it from rice so that it will be allergy-free. Since the late 1950s, our Rice Research Center has been working on diverse research themes, such as flavor, functionality, new materials, and production technologies. We want to tackle all kinds of challenges at the Rice Research Center.

The first case of novel coronavirus infection in Japan was detected on January 3, 2020. By now, nearly 22 months have passed. In closing, please look back and recap how the last nearly two years of coronavirus crisis have been for Kameda, and tell us about Kameda’s enthusiasm for the with-Covid and after-Covid phases, which must still be navigated with care.

These two years have been a succession of the kinds of days we’re never experienced before. I think “Kameda Kakinotane” and our other rice cracker products helped people with their working from home and nesting needs. I also get the feeling people are more sensitive to health and the global environment. We’re moving on from an era when if you were making money, that was enough, to one in which we must be kind to our bodies and to the Earth. Plant-based foods are just what that kind of era demands, and I think their importance will go on rising. At “Better For You - Kameda”, we aim to become a global food company, delivering happy and sustainable food products that taste better and better and make people smile to eat them.

Vegetarian fillet of soybeans and brown rice
This fillet, made solely of plant-based ingredients, is a new form of meat for the future. The real mouth feel of meat is brought out with brown rice and defatted soybeans.

Delicious brown rice bean paste bun
The ingredients exclude 27 varieties of specified allergens, such as wheat flour, eggs, and dairy products. The bread is made from Japanese-grown brown rice flour, which even people with allergies can eat with peace of mind.