Japanese Food Start-up Making the Social Impact
The negative impact of “food” on sustainability has been enormous, with numerous social problems such as food supply shortages, food loss, environment burden, growing health consciousness in recent years.
More and more people are concerned about food additives. Meanwhile, reducing food waste has become a social issue.
The business model of Yamayama.inc is to solve the social issues of food additives, food destruction, and employment of people with disabilities.
Out-of-spec fruit from farmers that would normally be discarded is purchased and processed at welfare facilities for the handicapped. Gummies made there with no sugar, gelatin, or other additives but without additives are delivered to consumers with children.
There are still more startups in Japan that tackle food loss issues. CoCooking Co., Ltd. operates TABETE, a matching application to reduce food loss. After payment is made, consumers can order on the platform and take out the items at a discount. Sellers can eliminate waste and increase sales, and users can obtain and eat delicious meals at reasonable prices. Furthermore, it also helps to reduce food loss.
Meet Epoch Co., Ltd. is a startup that manufactures and sells “aging sheets,” which promote stable fermentation and ripening in a short period of time. Wrapping meat and fish in aging sheets prevents the growth of fungi that cause spoilage and prevents “drips” that cause odors. In addition, oxidation is also inhibited, preventing deterioration of flavor and keeping fish and meat fresh even after a week. This change in food preservation methods makes it possible to safely deliver foods that previously could not be delivered because they did not last long.
Some startups are taking on the social challenge of disposing of food ingredients as industrial waste.
The Ethical Spirits & Co. produces craft gin using waste materials and operates a regenerative distillery under the motto “a distilling platform for a circular economy. The Ethical Spirits & Co. has launched a circular “Ethical Gin Project” in which sake lees are redistilled to produce and sell craft gin, and the profits from the gin are used to supply sake rice to the breweries that supply the sake lees, from which sake is produced again.
Next Meats Holdings, Inc. has focused on meat alternatives as a means of solving social issues related to the global environment and the food crisis. It is estimated that the livestock industry accounts for about 15% of the world’s share of CO2 emissions. In addition to methane gas contained in livestock burps and feces, deforestation to secure land and the use of large amounts of water to grow fodder, which occur in the process of raising livestock, known as factory farming, also have a large environmental impact. As a new alternative that does not increase the demand for meat, they are researching and developing plant protein meat alternatives and delivering them to consumers.
With diversifying consumer needs, there is a startup that aims to eliminate nutritional deficiencies and increase healthy life expectancy.
BASE FOOD, Inc. uses more than 10 carefully selected ingredients, including whole grains, soybeans, and chia seeds, while achieving nutritional balance and taste through a proprietary formula and manufacturing process. The company offers a complete nutritional diet that provides 33 nutrients needed daily, including protein, dietary fiber, and 26 vitamins and minerals, in a single serving.
Ellie Inc. is trying to solve the problem of protein deficiency by developing insect foods as a new source of protein. Focusing on silkworms, the company has combined silkworms with biotechnology and food technology to create alternative protein and health food and fiber ingredients.
Gryllus Inc. is a start-up company that consistently engages in breeding, production, raw material processing, product development, and marketing related to edible crickets in Japan.
Tabérumo Corporation aims to contribute to the health and harmony of all life by solving the food and protein shortage problem by supplying “algae” that can grow in a limited area with water, sun and a few minerals.
What these food-related social problem solving startups have in common is that they begin with a noble vision and goal of solving social problems, and then go through a process of figuring out the means to achieve that goal. This is commonly referred to as “moonshot”.
Another way of saying this is “backcasting”. It is a method of setting a goal at the beginning and next thinking about what is missing and supplementing it in order to solve problems and achieve a goal.
This is a business method that is opposed to “forecasting” starting with what you can.
They are examples of a good start-up that makes use of the Japanese people’s keen awareness and sensitivity toward solving social problem and our sensitive and elaborate methods to lead to solutions.
Food problems are not only a Japan’s problem, but a global one. It would be wonderful if these business model could spread to other countries and regions in the future.
Ikuo Kawauchi is the International Analyst & Business Expert at Tatvita Analysts. He is an Advisor to Pimpri Chinchwad University, and Indo-japan Business Council (IJBC). He has graduated from Keio University Economics Department and got a Master's degree in International Corporation Studies at Kibi International University Graduation School of International Corporation and Development. He had been working for a Japanese manufacturing company for over 30 years and worked in the field of business strategy, business planning and new business, overseas business development and marketing research. He has a great deal of knowledge in all areas of industry and experience in business activities. Especially he went to India dozens of times and has more than a thousand connections in a broad range of fields in India.
His current activities have 5 pillars, i.e.,
1. Business consulting, mainly Japan-India relations,
2. SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) Advisor & Lecturer,
3. Startup Entrepreneur Mentor & Advisor,
4. Japan’s Regional Revitalization Advisor and
5. Academic activities.
His current affiliation includes CEO; Asia-Africa Institute LLC, Founding Board Member, Japan India Sustainable Business Initiatives (JISBI); Managing Director NPO India Japan Friendship Center, Japan; Advisor, BDB India Private Limited; Expat Orbit LLC. Representative of Japan Desk; International Advisor, NGO Sewa Foundation; Member of the SDGs for Regional Revitalization Public-Private Partnership Platform, the Cabinet Office of Japan; Public Private Partnership Disaster Prevention DX Promotion Council, Digital Agency, Cabinet of Japan; The Japan Society For International Development(JASID); The Japanese Association for South Asian Studies(JASAS); Japan Association for Asian Studies(JAAS); The International House of Japan; and The Japan-India Association.