Ajinomoto returns to Myanmar with ingredient from Thailand

YANGON: Japanese seasoning and food maker Ajinomoto Co has restarted sales of its namesake seasoning in Myanmar through a local subsidiary, aiming to cater to growing demand after suspending business in the country in 2000.

The completion ceremony for a packaging plant of Myanmar Ajinomoto Foods Co was held on Tuesday in the Thilawa Special Economic Zone located on the outskirts of Yangon, Myanmar’s commercial capital. The plant was built with investment of around US$10 million (330 million baht) and began full operation in August.

Under the approval of Myanmar’s Food and Drug Administration, the 5,250-square-metre plant is importing the chief ingredient — monosodium glutamate — from Thailand and packaging it locally for sales of Aji-No-Moto “umami” seasoning, starting with the two cities of Yangon and Mandalay.

A local arm of the Tokyo-based company began packaging to sell the branded seasoning in the Southeast Asian country in 1996 but halted operations in 2000 due to changes in business conditions when the country was ruled by a military junta.

Takaaki Nishii, president and chief executive officer of Ajinomoto, said at the ceremony that the company aims to be one of the top 10 food companies in the world by 2020 and Myanmar plays an essential role in its vision.

“In order to realise (the target) and to be considered truly global, it goes without saying that a company simply must have a presence in Myanmar, an emerging market with a bright future,” Nishii said.

Myanmar is a highly promising market with its umami seasoning consumption of nearly 52,000 tonnes a year, according to Ajinomoto.

The size of employment at the new Myanmar subsidiary is expected to increase from the current 81 to 600 by 2020 along with business expansion.

However, Satoshi Ogawa, managing director of Myanmar Ajinomoto Foods, said that the company has concerns over fake packaging, which is massive in the market due to its strong brand recognition.

He added that consumers will benefit greatly from direct sales by the company because of its responsive manufacturing practices and guarantee of its products.

In addition to the packaging, Ajinomoto plans to add a production line at the facility for flavor seasonings in the near future.

The company has also invested about $22 million for the ongoing construction in the same economic zone of a factory for powdered beverages, which will be put on sale next April.

Myanmar Ajinomoto Foods, established in February 2016, is 90% owned by Ajinomoto SEA Regional Headquarters Co in Bangkok, Thailand, and 10% by Ajinomoto (Thailand) Co.

Source: Bangkok Post