Ajinomoto Debuts Frozen Entrees and Ready Meals in France

Tokyo-headquartered Ajinomoto aims to satisfy more of the growing appetite for Japanese cuisine in France with the introduction of eight new frozen products at Carrefour retail stores nationwide. The company, which has long been known in Europe for umami seasonings and has more recently established itself as a frozen food components supplier to Japanese restaurants on the continent, figures the time is right to generate additional sales through the freezer aisles of supermarkets and grocery stores.

The French market for Japanese food consumed at home and in restaurants, including seasonings, was estimated to be worth EUR 47 million (approximately ¥5.6 billion) in 2016. According to Libre Service Actualités, demand grew by about 15% over the previous year, driven by an increase in Japanese sushi restaurants. With Rugby World Cup 2019 and the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games to be held in Japan, the popularity of Japanese cuisine is expected to increase further.

Y pack C GyozaAjinomoto Foods Europe S.A.S. began limited test marketing of Ajinomoto brand frozen food dishes at Carrefour outlets last year. Positive feedback led to the full-scale launch this month. If the introduction is successful, further distribution to Germany and the UK will likely be the next move in Europe.

The line now available in France, primarily produced in Thailand, includes four starters and four ready meals ranging in price from EUR 3.95 to EUR 5.75. The starters are:

  • Z pack B KaraageKaraage (fried marinated chicken with soy and ginger sauce), nine pieces, 180 grams
  • Yakitori (marinated and grilled barbecued chicken brochettes accented with thick sauce made from sweet sake, soy sauce and sugar), 10 pieces, 200 grams
  • Vegetable and Chicken and Vegetable Gyoza (Japanese-style dumplings), 10 pieces, 200 grams

On the ready meals menu, with each offering containing a 560-gram serving for two persons, are:

  • pack B terisobaTerisoba (Fried Wheat Noodles with Shrimp and Vegetables)
  • Takikomi (Seafood and Vegetable Steamed White Rice featuring shrimp, squid tentacles, broccoli, red peppers, adzuki beans, onions and other ingredients)
  • Shiitake Gohan (White Rice with Shiitake Mushrooms, Chicken and Spinach)
  • pack D yakinikuYakiniku (Marinated Grilled Beef and Onion Fried Noodles), a dish that was popularized by ethnic Koreans living in Japan)

Global Expansion on Front Burner

Ajinomoto, which has been actively stepping up overseas operations beyond East Asia in both food and chemical sectors in recent years, has budgeted as much as ¥200 billion (about $1.79 billion) for further expansion. With more than half of current food product sales generated outside of Japan, the company has targeted a 30% increase in turnover to over ¥527 billion by fiscal 2020.

"We are considering acquisitions in three areas: overseas, cutting-edge medicine and flavor-related businesses," said CEO Takaaki Nishii. "If there are good proposals, we will even surpass the limit." 

The company will make major investments over the next three years at its Ajinomoto Windsor operations in the USA to improve production capacity for Asian frozen foods such as gyoza and fried rice, while adding manufacturing lines for new products. Just last week it announced that $39 million will be spent to build a frozen appetizer production facility in Joplin, Missouri, not far from an existing plant in Carthage. More than 200 new jobs are expected to be created to staff the operation. – Reported by John Saulnier