The discovery began with boiled bean curd with dashi (broth) made from kombu, a kind of kelp. While dining on kombu dashi, Dr. Ikeda became convinced that there was another basic taste altogether different from sweet, salty, sour, and bitter, and he began researching the composition of kombu dashi. Around the same time, Hiizu Miyake, Japan's first doctor of medicine, hypothesized that "good taste stimulates digestion." Dr. Ikeda was encouraged by this idea, and ultimately discovered that glutamic acid, a kind of amino acid, was what gave kombu the distinctive taste he had been searching for. He named the taste "umami," and proceeded to invent a method for producing seasoning with glutamate as a key component.
The glutamic acid extracted from kombu by Dr. Kikunae Ikeda (1908)
When he went to study in Germany in 1899, Dr. Ikeda was surprised by German people's physiques and general healthiness, which fostered in him the strong desire to "improve the nutrition of the Japanese people." Another individual who shared in his dream was Saburosuke Suzuki II, who launched a business venture to begin selling AJI-NO-MOTO®, the world's first umami seasoning in 1909. The origins of the Ajinomoto Group lie in this ideal: "Eat Well, Live Well."
The original AJI-NO-MOTO® (1909)
In 2000, researchers at the University of Miami reported the presence of umami receptors on the tongue, and in 2006 Ajinomoto's Institute of Life Sciences discovered that such receptors were also present in the stomach. The importance of glutamate — not only to our sense of taste but also in the nutritional and physiological sense —
is being demonstrated more and more through our recent research. Our "Eat Well, Live Well" is actually an ideal that has been scientifically proven.
Today, the Ajinomoto Group continues to share this aspiration. We aim to contribute to society in the fields of Food, AminoScience, and Pharmaceuticals and Health by further pursuing the potential of amino acids that was found with the discovery of umami.
Dr. Ikeda's research notes (1918–1929)