Our Value #2

With planning and development
capabilties, we are aiming to be
a “food solution company”.

Kenji Maruta (Executive Adviser)

Harumi Yoshikawa (Department of Development Sales Manager)

-- What is it like to work in product development at UFI?

Yoshikawa: Our product development is divided into three main areas: private brands, national brands, and foreign exports. We generally create private-brand products based on orders that our sales department receives from companies. On the other hand, nearly all of our national-brand products originate from conversations with our internal marketing department. Our foreign exports include both private brands and national brands.

Maruta: While Yoshikawa oversees the flavors and ingredients of products, I create design concepts for our national brands then manage each item's overall production based on them, including areas such as packaging design and direction.

-- What are the strengths of UFI?

Maruta: In a word, integration—our company can handle the entire production process by itself. Another advantage is that our corporate group has factories both within Japan and abroad.

Yoshikawa: That's true, I think that having bases of operation overseas is a plus when it comes to UFI's planning abilities. We can use that, for example, to gain advance knowledge of trends in the United States and modify them to fit a Japanese customer base. I think a company that can do all that in-house is pretty rare.

Maruta: Incorporating information from abroad to develop flavors and create products that fit the Japanese market and pricing structure. Then, being able to reliably distribute those products to markets. I'm confident that those are two of our appealing qualities. The speed with which we can develop products might also be considered an advantage.

Yoshikawa: We've gained expertise and established connections with manufacturers over these many years. It isn't common knowledge, but bringing a food product to market is a long ordeal that requires a lot of testing, and the development process itself can often take an unexpectedly lengthy period of time. In our case, we frequently get manufacturers to supply us with materials that have already been tested and streamlined, which allows us to reduce the time required to release a product from the standard of three years to less than a year.

-- What are some of the things you keep in mind while working?

Yoshikawa: I guess that my work is sort of like developing a recipe. But what is important to me is how much of myself I can include in that recipe. You can make a cheap imitation of something just by reading a recipe from a book or website, but it's a strange thing—if you don't put your heart into it, it won't really sell. It goes without saying, but each and every ingredient has significance, so I think that the creator must be able to explain why they used them. That is because adding value rather than simply copying a recipe that someone else made shows the true heart of the creator.

Maruta: For me, I really love the supermarkets in foreign countries for some reason.(laughs) I still stop by them when traveling abroad on a business trip or vacation. I can't really say if it's work or pleasure, but I've been trying through trial and error to capture that excitement in our national-brand products as well. For instance, the design of packaging in Japan includes a lot of information, whereas packaging for foreign products prioritizes the conveyance of a worldview over information. I try to keep that in mind when planning a product.

-- What is it like to work at UFI, and what sort of people find success there?

Yoshikawa: I get the feeling that this is a company where a lot of highly independent people are thriving, and that's not limited to work in product development. The people who succeed are those who can think through things on their own rather than waiting around for instructions.

Maruta: I think this is a lively and liberating workplace where everyone can speak freely as they work, and that includes myself. I hear people in human resources say that they are looking for energetic people with a strong sense of responsibility and the ability to speak their own minds.

Yoshikawa: Because having a good taste and sense is especially important in product development, people who enjoy eating and also knowing about current trends can really pursue those interests and have fun as they grow professionally.

Maruta: Right. A love for food, a love for sales environments, a love for shopping, a love for trends…I want to work alongside people like that. Since UFI offers many opportunities and a high degree of freedom, I believe that it is a place where people can pursue their interests while engaging in substantial work that gives them a sense of worth, as long as they bring the energy.

Yoshikawa: It's also an easy environment to work for women. Performance evaluations are unbiased, so people can look to advance their careers without worrying about their age.

-- What's next for UFI?

Yoshikawa: In 2020, an amendment to the Food Sanitation Act will allow us to be credited in the manufacturer column, even for our private-brand products (with the exception of certain items). I see this as a chance for UFI to take center stage, and I would like to create some great products that can draw attention to not only our private brands but our national brands as well.

Maruta: Until now, our sales have been fairly one-dimensional as we focused on specializing in private brands. But moving forward, I want UFI to position itself as a comprehensive manufacturer of food products. I'd like to continue demonstrating our excellence in projects involving private brands and national brands so that we can establish UFI as a "food solution company" rather than simply a food manufacturer that has its own factories.

Kenji Maruta

Executive Adviser

Harumi Yoshikawa

Department of Development Sales Manager

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