NIHONMONODiscovering Japan [Nihon] through authentic craftsmanship [Honmono]

Hidetoshi Nakata travels around Fukushima <#07> Arriving in Fukushima – “A new local specialty”

Hidetoshi Nakata travels around Fukushima <#07>
Arriving in Fukushima - “A new local specialty”

A melting sensation that spreads throughout the mouth, with a gentle lingering flavor. The raw caramel from Fukushima that was introduced at the Salon du Chocolat in Paris 6 years ago was a huge sensation.
It was developed by an electronic parts manufacturer, Mukaiyama Seisakusho, in Ootamamura. We visited the birthplace of the “miracle caramel”.

Fukushima’s pride – timeless sweets

Nakata is known for his love of sweets and has been involved in producing many products. Kinya Oda, the president of Mukaiyama Seisakusho is pleased to hear that Nakata knew about his company for some time.
The company’s main business is manufacturing parts for precision instruments. While they had overcome difficult times on numerous occasions, 80 percent of their business disappeared after the Bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers in 2008. Trying to think of ways to rebuild their business, their attention turned to the industrial size gas range in their break room, prompting them to begin making sweets.

The president always enjoyed cooking and was interested in the food and beverage industry. He convinced his staff and worked with a female employee who was a certified nutritionist, to create a recipe from scratch. Of course, they are no match for professionals. They relied instead on data about temperature and volume, using a calculator to work out the precise balance for their raw caramel recipe for about a year.
They then began developing sales channels. Initially selling in parking areas along the highway, they were invited to sell in a direct sales shop. Soon, they were being invited to promotional events at department stores, and news about their product spread in the cities. Their raw caramel is now being served in first class on international flights by a major airline.

On March 1, 2011, an airplane that carried the first pieces of Mukaiyama Seisakusho’s new endeavor took off. But only 10 days later, the Great East Japan Earthquake turned everything upside down. Logistics came to a standstill and the prefecture’s dairy products could not be sold.
In desperation, they turned to ingredients from other parts of the country, and 2 months after the disaster, they began selling their caramel at a department store in Tokyo.
Not everyone was supportive of their efforts. They had to deal with negative comments and vicious lashings.
There were days when they seriously considered withdrawing from the business, following months of losses. In fact, one of the reasons they entered Salon du Chocolat, was to come to terms with their fate.

“My staff believed in me and let me lead the way. I wanted to be sure I gave it our all before we gave up.”
But, against all odds, Mukaiyama Seisakusho was enthusiastically accepted by the French.
“We recovered our faith and confidence with our performance in France. I am forever grateful.”
As rumors about the success in Paris spread, sales began to recover, and they continue to grow.

Nakata asked, “Do you think that you were able to expand your potential by securing ingredients from other areas in Japan?”
While Oda admits that it helped, he also expressed his strong support for Fukushima and the flavors that originate here.
“There are some products that we have not been able to resume since the earthquake, there are many that we have revived with careful attention to safety, and others that were newly developed. We hope to create products that only use ingredients from Fukushima. That is the ultimate desire of all our employees.”

ACCESS

Mukaiyama Seisakusho
94 Nuido, Otamamura, Adachi-gun, Fukushima
URL http://www.mukaiyama-ss.co.jp/caramel/index.html