Basic knowledge of AJI-NO-MOTO®

The Birth of AJI-NO-MOTO®

Dr. Ikeda first ate western foods in Germany

A Japanese scientist, Dr. Kikunae Ikeda stayed in Germany for two years to study physics after graduating from Tokyo Imperial University in Japan. During his stay in Germany, he was interested in the tastes of various foods that he first ate there such as tomatoes, cheese, asparagus and meat.
At that time, scientists believed there were only four basic tastes. However Dr. Ikeda felt that there might be a unique taste different from the other four basic tastes.


Dr. Ikeda discovered umami: a common taste

This is a part of his presentation that was made at the 8th International Congress of Applied Chemistry in Chicago in 1912. This phrase well described what he thought during his stay in Germany.

Dr. K. lkeda

umami: a common taste

An attentive taster will find out something common in the complicated taste of asparagus, tomatoes, cheese and meat, which is quite peculiar and cannot be classed under any of the well defined four taste qualities, sweet, sour, salty and bitter.
(Dr. K. Ikeda's presentation at the 8th Int'l Congress of Applied Chemistry, Chicago, 1912)

After a two-year stay in Germany, he returned to Japan. He noticed that an unidentified taste quality, distinct from the four basic tastes, sweet, salty, sour and bitter, was present in palatable foods. He detected this taste most clearly in broth prepared from dried kombu seaweed, which has been used traditionally in Japanese cooking.
Subsequently, in 1908, he investigated the constituents of the dried kombu and discovered the taste to be contributed by the glutamate it contained. He named this taste umami.

Glutamate at the time
Kombu that is sold at Tsukiji Market

During his experiment to isolate glutamate from kombu, he read a paper on "Food and Digestion" written by Dr. Hizu Miyake, M.D. and was impressed with Dr. Miyake's opinion that good tastes promote digestion. After discovering umami, he tried to develop a new flavor substance based on glutamate.

The Start of AJI-NO-MOTO® as a Business

Dr. Ikeda believed in improving the nutritional condition of Japanese people through umami and was aware of the need to spread that nutrition in the form of a product to common households. He thereupon approached Saburosuke Suzuki, who was responsible for iodine production, with the idea of creating a business aiming to be a partner in the commercialization of his idea. In 1909 a year after acquiring a patent, AJI-NO-MOTO® was sold as the first umami seasoning in the world.

Saburosuke Suzuki / The first bottle design

A unique advertising strategy for initial sales

Saburo Suzuki

Saburosuke's son Saburo, who promoted sales of AJI-NO-MOTO® projects, was only just about 19 when sales started. Feeling unsatisfied with traditional methods such as use of newspaper advertisements, he reached out to various marketing strategies. The advertisements on horse cart which many people used, is the origin of the Nakazuri Kokoku (Train advertisement) we see today. Furthermore, at a time when provision of product samples were rare, he sold the product in small bottles through vending machines, promoted sales by requesting help from a nation-wide traveling pharmacist, and via national promotion. Besides that, he also went on a campaign around the country with a marching band to sell his products to retail shops. He was also the creator of the "road stamps" -advertisements that read "Dashi no Oyadama (The King of Broth) Ajinomoto" -written on the roads with chalk, which stirred the public's interest.

Train advertising
Train advertising
Road stamps Marching band
Road stamps Marching band

Emphasis on Overseas Marketing from the Beginning

One year following the initial commencement of products sales, Saburosuke Suzuki had already begun the sale of AJI-NO-MOTO® in Taiwan and Korea, as if to prove his assertion that AJI-NO-MOTO® was truly an international discovery. Product sales exceeded his own predictions. The product quickly spread to food stalls, restaurants, and even the common household. This prompted Saburo Suzuki, the son of Saburosuke, to travel to China and launch sales activities. In 1916, a branch office had been established in Shanghai. The following year the product had expanded past Asia and an office was even established in New York. Unceasing efforts to improve the world's diet through umami have continued to this day.

Chinese poster English poster
Chinese poster English poster
Currently sold in over 100 countries and regions.

Currently sold in over 100 countries and regions.