JAPANESE FIRM EXPLORES FRESNO AREA FOR US HEADQUARTERS
Written By Frank Lopez
It’s not news to people in the Central Valley that we have one of the richest agricultural regions in the country and the world.
The fertile soils of the San Joaquin Valley have been garnering attention from businesses in other countries — most recently, a well-established company from Japan.
Manda Fermentation Co., Ltd., founded in 1987, is a health food manufacturer in Hiroshima Prefecture, Japan, whose flagship product, “Manda Koso,” along with other fermented foods, has been spurring interest in the United States.
“We have seen an increase in fermentation interest,” said Tomoyuki Iwanami, chief creative officer for Manda Fermentation USA, the American branch of the company that is in its early stages. “One of the major turning points recently is the Kombucha (a fermented tea) craze. Fermented tea leaves are selling in San Francisco, natto fermented soybeans are gaining traction. Overall fermentation, the word itself, is spreading and there’s more awareness and consciousness towards it.”
“Manda Koso” is made of 53 botanical raw materials that are then fermented and matured for more than three years and three months. The process is free of preservatives and no water and heat is applied.
Fruits, grains, edible algae, and vegetables that the company uses from farms they either contract with or own are utilized so that no parts are wasted and consumers can get the full range of nutrients, such as the skin and leaves.
Along with selling “Manda Koso” and other health foods, Manda Fermentation also sells “Manda Amino Alpha” a fertilizer that uses “Manda Koso” for plants, and “Fermic,” a pet supplement that also uses the fermented product. It is also used for food for livestock.
Through a series of introductions with the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp., the heads at Manda were made aware of the San Joaquin Valley being one of the biggest agricultural centers of the world, and it made sense for them to start their U.S. operations in the area.
Last year, Manda Fermentation got connected to the Fresno State Department of Viticulture and Enology to conduct research on a fermented plant concentrate that could enhance grapevine growth.
The company will be using resources from Fresno State and other colleges in the California, such as UC Davis, for more research on the product and how it could be used in our area.
Clay Gilpin, market development manager for Manda Fermentation USA, who worked as the business support manager for the Fresno County EDC from 2015 until the end of 2019, is working for Manda facilitating connections in the states, as well as doing marketing and sales.
“Fresno State is one of the most practical farming universities, “Gilpin said. “Having that resource in the backyard is important. We are working with them now on projects — one is a study on the effects of ‘Manda Harvest’ on wine grapes. We are going to work with the business school on doing some market research. We feel like we are poised for a good launch.”
Manda Fermentation USA is still going through research and development before they decide on opening up a facility in the area, but it is something that they are keen to continue pursuing. Along with a facility, the company is also planning to survey properties that might be suitable for their operations, and also to build relationships with local farmers they could one day work with.
Manda Fermenation USA will have a booth at the World Ag Expo in Tulare Feb. 11-13 and at the Natural Products Expo West in Anaheim in March to get the word out on their product, and hopefully establish relationships with other companies in the U.S.
“The short term goals right now are getting to the World Ag Expo, then the Natural Products Expo, then hopefully start selling ‘Manda Koso’ in the U.S.,” said Yasuhito Nakajima, MBA, CEO and president of Manda Fermentation Co. Ltd. “We want the name to be out there, that’s for the short term.”