Fukuoka: A Gateway To Asia - Focus On Fukuoka #3 [Market Brew]

Find out how a local health-food company leveraged Fukuoka's proximity to Asia for the strategic expansion of their brand.

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About us: Market Brew is curated by GourmetPro. We help F&B brands and companies enter or expand in Japan by providing bespoke matching to our exclusive network of bilingual consultants. Exploring opportunities in Japan's F&B industry? GourmetPro has the perfect expert to guide you. Explore our services.

Happy Thursday Market Brewsters. Today we continue our exploration of one of Japan’s major regional markets, Fukuoka, and the opportunities there for F&B players. We’ve already discovered Fukuoka City is a popular F&B test market in Japan, and looked at the opportunities in the food service and hospitality industry. Today we hear from a company that has been able to grow its business by taking advantage of Fukuoka’s proximity to Asia.


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Giovanny Paiz Torres (pictured above) is in charge of the Overseas Sales Development for Sonomono Inc. (hereafter: Sonomono), a company that makes health food supplements. Their key ingredient is Japan’s marmite, the love-it or hate-it fermented soybean, natto. Giovanny has spent the last 10 years of his career on Kyushu, supporting the global expansion of diverse companies, including Sonomono. He’s a firm believer in Fukuoka as a fertile land of opportunity.

Fukuoka is a gateway to Japan AND Asia. It’s across the street from South Korea and Taiwan. It’s close to China, and Singapore, pretty much everywhere in South East Asia is accessible from here too.

Giovanny has been instrumental in expanding Sonomono’s health food products to Singapore, their first international market. The proximity to Fukuoka and similarities to Japan meant Singapore was a high potential market.

One of the great benefits of Fukuoka is that it allows easy access to Asia. When I came to expand our products outside Japan, I was looking for market in close proximity and with a culture that has a similar view of health food products. Singaporeans, like the Japanese, are increasingly health conscious and willing to pay a premium price for health food products. 

In addition to being a convenient gateway to Asia, Giovanny emphatically reminds us that Fukuoka gives access to one of Japan’s most valuable resources, its nature. Fukuoka’s warm climate and fertile soils make it an excellent place to produce raw materials. Sonomono source the soybeans for their natto from nearby Saga prefecture.  

Sonomono’s product is made from local, non-GMO soybeans. This is really rare in Japan as over 90% of the soybeans used in natto products are imported from abroad. Kyushu has great land for producing raw materials. The advantage of using local, made-in-Japan products, is that they have a reputation for high quality domestically and throughout Asia.

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On engaging regional stakeholders in Japan

Giovanny and his boss recently collaborated with research institutions, local farmers, and the Fukuoka Government on a research project to prove the health-giving properties of natto. It included more than 200 participants from Kōhoku-machi, Saga. To see the results of the project and diverse scientific information related to natto, check out the Sonomono Labo site.

In Kyushu, local institutions and the government are open to working with businesses. 

According to Giovanny, it takes experience and patience to make the most of collaborative projects like this, however.

It was a step-by-step process to convince the local government and farmers associations to work with us. We spent years building relationships with the farmers to convince them of the benefits of backing up the widespread belief of natto's health benefits with scientific research.

It was similar on the government side. Numerous meetings and careful presentation of the benefits of the project in local economic reactivation were required to achieve joint participation.

Once both parties joined the project, Sonomono and the research institutions provided the necessary technical and financial resources to carry out the project and bring it to a successful conclusion.

Getting things done in Japan is all about building the right relationships. But if you’re new to the market or exploring a new F&B venture, it’s hard to know where to start and who to speak to. An expert who can introduce you to the right people can save you time and turbo-charge your project in Japan.

GourmetPro’s network of experts has an average of 15 years of experience on the ground in Japan driving change through engagement with local stakeholders. Whatever change you want to bring about, our experts can ensure you achieve your desired outcome.

To find out more about how to work with the Fukuoka City and the opportunities available, we organized an exclusive interview with spokespeople from the local government. More on this next week!

That’s all folks

A huge thank you to Giovanny Paiz Torres and the team at Sonomono Inc. for supporting this article and interviewing with Market Brew.

See you next time for an exclusive interview with the Fukuoka City Government about F&B business opportunities in the city.

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