Interview: Makoto Kinjo – President of Anzco Foods Japan
ANZCO started business in Japan 27 years ago as the lamb and mutton importing and distribution arm of the New Zealand Meat Producers Board.
Today, ANZCO Foods Limited, whose corporate office is located in Christchurch, is one of the top four major meat companies in New Zealand and operates businesses including beef and lamb processing, farming and processed meat production.
ANZCO Foods Japan operates as one of five global sales and marketing operations, along with the US, Europe, UK and Taiwan. Weekender sat with Makoto Kinjo, President of ANZCO Foods Japan to discuss the all things meat.
Tell us a little about ANZCO and your operations here?
Our customers range from meat and food wholesalers, retailers and restaurant chains to major food manufacturers spread across the country from Hokkaido to Okinawa. Our company has an annual turnover of approximately ¥15 billion and employs 40 staff in our Tokyo, Osaka and Sapporo offices. Our strongest selling point is our fully integrated operation that encompasses farming, processing, manufacturing, importation and delivery to customers. This means our products are fully traceable and we are highly responsive to customer requests. Not many meat companies in the world can offer this—certainly not to the extent of our global operation.
What challenges do you face importing meat to Japan?
Japan’s shrinking and aging population is a problem. Although we believe our lamb and beef products are a healthy source of protein that is essential for aged people these meats are often perceived as being high in fat. I also see this as an opportunity for us to develop a new market for our lean and healthy meat options. However, our biggest challenge lies in very low awareness of New Zealand as a supplier of high quality beef. As we are a small player our ability to invest in brand promotion is limited compared to our counterparts from Australia and the US.
The meat industry is conservative anywhere in the world. The fun is in bringing innovation into the business and creating something new to capture new audiences. We have changed average Japanese consumers’ perceptions of lamb from ‘smelly meat’ to ‘healthy meat’ through our PR campaign, which we started in 2003. We may have an advantage because we are a ‘foreign company’ so we can get away with upsetting the industry norm. People in the industry say wagyu (Japanese beef) consumption is depressed because of the economic condition but I think many Japanese are eating less wagyu because they no longer want to eat high-fat meat. At least 90 percent of Japanese people, that I have met in the last few years say they can no longer eat wagyu because of its richness but would love to eat our beef because it tastes better. Our mission is to deliver safe and healthy meat to Japanese consumers and to assist improving their diet.
Have you seen any change in orders since the Fukushima scare?
Immediately after 3/11 we launched our beef in Miyagi prefecture, and sales have been extremely good. However, in other parts we saw a dip in sales but these are due to a number of factors, not just the Fukushima scare.
What are your most popular products in Japan?
We have Ocean Beef, which is beef raised 18 months on highly nutritious pasture and finished with grain feed. This is what we offer at our restaurant, WAKANUI. We also market premium grass-fed beef. Both of these beef products have loyal following by certain regional supermarket chains and are performing very strongly. Our lamb, although still small in volume compared to beef, is popular among supermarkets in Tokyo.
Can you tell us a little about WAKANUI and the relations with ANZCO?
We opened WAKANUI as a way of promoting our beef and lamb in Tokyo. It is owned and operated by ANZCO. Food service is not our business and we started the restaurant not as a profit-making proposition but to showcase our products and expose them to a wider audience. So far, it has served its original purposes. A number of new businesses have been generated as a result of executives, buyers and chefs visiting the restaurant and being impressed with our beef and lamb. The significance of WAKANUI is that it enables us to present our products in the best possible form for consumption.
Are you planning to open more restaurants here?
Short answer is ‘No’. Our attention is now on selling more beef and lamb. Outside Japan, I would like to replicate the formula of establishing WAKANUI and introducing our beef and lamb into the market.
What do you have planned for 2012?
Leverage the success of WAKANUI; sell more beef and lamb in Japan whilst further developing the market in Asia.