Dr. Kikunae Ikeda Discovers Umami in 1908
Our journey of discovery began with a bowl of boiled tofu in kombu dashi (a broth made from a kind of kelp.) While savoring the broth, Dr. Ikeda became convinced that there was another basic taste altogether different from sweet, salty, sour, and bitter. Intrigued by this thought, he began analyzing the composition of kombu dashi. Around the same time, Hiizu Miyake, Japan’s first doctor of medicine, hypothesized that good taste stimulates digestion. Encouraged by this idea, Dr. Ikeda redoubled his efforts. He ultimately discovered what gave kombu its distinctive taste: It was glutamic acid, a type of amino acid. He named the taste umami, and developed a method to produce seasoning with glutamate as its key component.
Improved nutrition for the Japanese people
Dr. Ikeda went to study in Germany in 1899. The physiques and overall good health of the Germans impressed him and fostered a strong desire to improve the nutrition of the Japanese people. Another individual who shared this dream was Saburosuke Suzuki II. In 1909, he launched a business venture to begin selling AJI-NO-MOTO®, the world’s first umami seasoning. The origins of the Ajinomoto Group lie in this ideal: “Eat Well, Live Well.”
Eat Well, Live Well.
In 2000, researchers at the University of Miami reported the presence of umami receptors on the tongue. Six years later, Ajinomoto’s Institute of Life Sciences discovered that similar receptors were also present in the stomach. The importance of glutamate—not only to our sense of taste but also for nutritional and physiological well-being—is being demonstrated more and more through our recent research. Our corporate slogan, “Eat Well, Live Well.” is actually an ideal that has been scientifically proven.
Today, the Ajinomoto Group continues to pursue this goal by contributing to society in our spheres of Life Support, Healthcare, Food Science, and Amino Science, and by continuing to explore the potential of amino acids in every aspect of life.
The glutamic acid extracted from kombu by Dr. Kikunae Ikeda (1908)
The original AJI-NO-MOTO® (1909)
Dr. Ikeda's research notes (1918–1929)
Dr. Kikunae Ikeda, a chemist, started to develop UMAMI taste from Konbu seaweed. Mr. Saburosuke Suzuki II established Suzuki Seiyakusho Co.
- Dr. Ikeda acquired patent for manufacturing seasoning (monosodium glutamate).
- Mr. Suzuki acquired a joint share of the above-mentioned patent with Dr. Ikeda.
- The Japanese Interior Ministry certified AJI-NO-MOTO as harmless in terms of health and safety.
- Registered trademark of Lady & AJI-NO-MOTO.
- Started production AJI-NO-MOTO in Zushi factory.
- AJI-NO-MOTO won a bronze medal at the first Japanese Invention Exhibition.
- Launched AJI-NO-MOTO in Japan on 20th May 1909.
- Adopted sole agent in Taiwan and launched AJI-NO-MOTO.
- Adopted sole agent in Korea and launched AJI-NO-MOTO.
Started to sell wheat starch (to spinning companies).
Dr. Kodama, pupil of Dr. Ikeda, discovered that Inosinate is the source of UMAMI taste in dried bonito.
- Established Kawasaki factory.
- Adopted sole agent in China.
- Established Oh-shima factory in Tokyo (closed in 1919).
- Established S. Suzuki & Co. Ltd. (the present Ajinomoto Co., Inc.).
- Established Hamanaka factory in Hokkaido (closed in 1921).
- Opened New York purchasing and sales office (closed in 1941).
Opened Shanghai sales office (closed in 1945).
Established S. Suzuki & Co., Ltd. in New York.
Extended the patent term for manufacturing seasoning (monosodium glutamate) for 6 years.
The Great Kanto Earthquake destroyed Head office and Kawasaki factory.
Established The Larrowe Suzuki Company in the U.S. (dissolved in 1936).
- Opened Singapore sales office (closed in 1938).
- Opened Hong Kong sales office (closed in 1937).
Established Showa Hiryo Co. Inc. (the present Showa Denko K.K. ).
Opened Taipei sales office (closed in 1945).
- Cut price five times in 6 years.
- Opened Seoul sales office (closed in 1943).
- Opened Dalian sales office (closed in 1945).
Changed company name to Ajinomoto Honpo S. Suzuki & Co., Ltd.
- Opened Harbin (China) sales office (closed in 1942).
- Opened Shenyang (China) sales office (closed in 1943).
- Opened Tianjin (China) sales office (closed in 1945).
- Established Showa Brewery Co. Ltd. (the present Mercian Corporation).
- Established Tianjin (China) Kogyo Co. (taken over in 1945).
- Established Takara Oil Refining Co., Ltd.
- Established Takara Seiyaku Co. (the present AJINOMOTO HEALTHY SUPPLY, INC.).
- Established Yokohama factory (the present J-OIL MILLS, INC. Yokohama factory).
- Established Manchuria Nosan Kagaku Kogyo Co. in Tianjin, China (taken over in 1945).
- Established Shanghai Ajinomoto Co. in China (sold in 1945).
Changed company name to Suzuki Shokuryo Kogyo Co.
- Changed company name to Dai-Nippon Chemical Co.
- Established Saga factory.
Changed company name to Ajinomoto Co., Inc.
Became a publicly-quoted company.
Started to sell AJI-NO-MOTO in Japan without control.
Reopened Los Angels sales office.
Opened Sao Paulo, Paris, Bangkok, Singapore and Hong Kong sales offices.
- Launched Crystal of Essential Amino Acids (ingredients of infusion).
- Established Ajinomoto Co. of New York, Inc. (the present Ajinomoto U.S.A., Inc.).
- Established Ajinomoto do Brasil Industria e Comercio (the present Ajinomoto Interamericana Indutria e Comercio Ltda.).
- Established Central Research Laboratories in Kawasaki.
- Established Nippon Consomme Co., Ltd. (the present Knorr Foods Co., Ltd. ).
- Established Union Chemicals Inc. in the Philippines (the present AJINOMOTO PHILIPPINES CORPORATION).
- Established Ajinomoto Co., (Thailand) Ltd.
- Launched Aji-Shio.
- Established Nippon Amino Shiryo Co., Ltd. (the present Itochu Feed Mills Co., Ltd.).
- Established Yokkaichi factory.
- Established Ajinomoto (Malaya) Co., Ltd. (the present Ajinomoto (Malaysia) Berhad).
- Established Deutche Ajinomoto GmbH.
Launched Umami Dashi Hi-Me.
- Launched Kellogg’s Corn Flakes in alliance with Kellogg Co.
- Established Ajinomoto-INSUD S.p.A. in Italy (dissolved in 1977).
Launched Knorr Soup in alliance with CPC.
Launched feed-use Lysine.
- Established Toyo Oil Mills Co., Inc. (the present J-OIL MILLS, INC. Chiba factory).
- Established Ajinomoto del Peru S.A.
- Launched mayonnaise in alliance with CPC.
- Established PT Ajinomoto Indonesia.
- Dr. Olney report introduced.
- Took a stake in Myojo Alimentos Ltda. (the present Nissin-Ajinomoto Alimentos Ltda.).
- Launched Ajinomoto KK Frozen Foods.
- Launched surfactant Amisoft.
- Established Ajinomoto (Singapore) Pte. Ltd.
- Launched Ajinomoto General Foods products in alliance with General Foods Corp.
- Launched Knorr Cup Soup.
- Took a stake in Wan Thai Foods Industry Co., Ltd. (instant noodle).
Established Eurolysine S.A. (the present AJINOMOTO EUROLYSINE S.A.S.) in France.
Launched AGF Maxim coffee.
Launched Ajinomoto KK Chuka-Aji.
Launched menu-specific seasonings Cook Do.
- Launched Argin-Z beverage.
- Launched ROSDEE in Thailand.
Launched DANONE products in alliance with Cie GERVAIS DANONE.
Launched ELENTAL (elemental diet).
Started to export aspartame to U.S.
Established NutraSweet AG (the present Ajinomoto Sweeteners Europe S.A.S.) in Swiss.
- Launched PAL SWEET (sweetener).
- Established Heartland Lysine, Inc. (the present Ajinomoto Heartland LLC) in the U.S.
Launched Lentinan (anti-cancer drug).
- Established PT Ajinex International in Indonesia.
- Established Kashima factory (closed in 2002).
- Launched Sazon in Brazil.
- Launched Seto no Honjio.
- Established Ajinomoto Foundation for Dietary Culture.
- Acquired S.A. OmniChem N.V. (the present S.A. Ajinomoto OmniChem N.V.).
- Established Ajinomoto System Techno Corporation.
- Established Ajinomoto Frozen Foods (Thailand) Co., Ltd.
- Alliance with Calpis Food Industry Co., Ltd. (the present Calpis Co., Ltd.).
- Established B&W Vietnam Co., Ltd. (the present Ajinomoto Vietnam Co., Ltd.).
- Established West African Seasoning Co., Ltd. in Nigeria.
- Established Euro-Aspartame S.A. (the present Ajinomoto Sweeteners Europe S.A.S.) in France.
Launched enzyme ACTIVA.
Launched Birdy canned coffee in Thailand.
- Established PT Ajinomoto Calpis Beverage Indonesia.
- Established CHUANHUA AJINOMOTO CO., LTD. in China.
- Launched amino VITAL Pro.
- Established Ajinomoto Betagro Frozen Foods Co., Ltd. in Thailand.
- Established Lianyungang Ajinomoto Ruyi Foods Co., Ltd. in China.
Established Ajinomoto (China) Co., Ltd.
- Launched Jino series of cosmetics.
- Established Ajinomoto Lianhua Amino Acid Co., Ltd.
- (the present HENAN AJINOMOTO AMINO ACID CO., LTD.) in China.
- ASQUA (Ajinomoto System of Quality Assurance) became effective.
Established ZAO “AJINOMOTO-GENETIKA Research Institute” in Russia.
- Introduced corporate logo.
- Established Ajinomoto Communications Inc.
- Established Ajinomoto Pharmaceuticals Europe Ltd.
- Established Ajinomoto Poland Sp. zoo.
- Established Ajinomoto Pharma Co., Ltd.
- AGP (Ajinomoto Group Principles) became effective.
- Established Ajinomoto Frozen Foods Co., Ltd.
- Established Lianyungang Ajinomoto Frozen Foods Co., Ltd. in China.
Established SHANGHAI HOUSE AJINOMOTO FOODS CO., LTD.
Established Shanghai Ajinomoto Seasoning Co., Ltd.
- Took a stake in Gaban Asaoka Co., Ltd. (the present Gaban Co., Ltd.).
- AJINOMOTO soccer Stadium opened in Tokyo.
- Established J-OIL MILLS, INC.
- Established AJINOMOTO INDIA PVT. Ltd.
- Established AJINOMOTO FOODS EUROPE S.A.S. in France.
- Established SHANGHAI HOUSE FOODS CO., LTD.
- Established Xiamen Ajinomoto Life Ideal Foods Co., Ltd.
- Established OOO “AJINOMOTO” in Russia.
- Established Ajinomoto Group Training Center in Japan.
Established Ajinomoto Medica Co., Ltd.
Acquired Amoy Food Group companies from Groupe Danone.
Alliance with YAMAKI Co., Ltd.
Established Food Development & Technology Center.
Opened Ajinomoto National Training Center in Tokyo. Agreed on the acquisition of the naming rights with the Japanese Olympic Committee.
- Introduced the slogan, “Eat Well, Live Well.”
- Established Ajinomoto Pharmaceuticals Co., Ltd.
- Established Ajinomoto Istanbul Food Sales Ltd.
- Established Ajinomoto Bangladesh Ltd.
- Established Ajinomoto Animal Nutrition Group, Inc.
- Established Ajinomoto Foods Egypt S.A.E.
- Established AJINOMOTO AFRIQUE DE L’OUEST S.A. (Côte d’Ivoire, December).
- Started supporting 6 new projects in Cambodia, etc. through the AIN (the Ajinomoto International Cooperation Network for Nutrition and Health) Program.
- Promoted the “Health/Nutrition Seminars” that support “healthy mind and body” as part of the support for the Great East Japan Earthquake and held 234 seminars total. Continuing the efforts in 2013.
- Launched Ajinomoto KK “Nabe Cube” (August).
- Established Ajinomoto Genexine Co., Ltd. in Korea (manufacturing/sales of culture media for animal cells) (November).
AJINOMOTO AFRIQUE DE L'OUEST S.A. established a factory for packaging AJI-NO-MOTO in Côte d'Ivoire (April)
Ajinomoto Co., (Thailand) Ltd. established a new factory for the production of AJI-NO-MOTO in Ayutthaya Province (July)
Launched Amino Aile, a fundamental food product, that helps senior citizens have a longer and healthier life (November)
Succeeded in the joint development of StemFit® AK03, an iPS/ES cell culture medium, with the Center for iPS Cell Research and Application, Kyoto University (February)
PT Lautan Ajinomoto Fine Ingredients (LAFI) began full-scale operation of a new plant that produces cosmetic ingredients (March)
Opened Lahore Office in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan (July)
Ajinomoto Genexine Co., Ltd. (South Korea) began full-scale operation of its new plant that produces culture media for use in the manufacture of biotechnology-based medicine (October)
Ajinomoto North America, Inc. (AJINA) acquired Windsor Quality Holdings, LP, a US company that manufactures and sells frozen food (November)
Agreed to Ajinomoto Co.'s acquisition of all shares of Ajinomoto General Foods, Inc. held by Mondelēz for JPY 27.0 billion and concluded a share purchase and sale agreement (February)
Restructured the organization in North America by establishing holding company Ajinomoto North America Holdings, Inc. and integrating the frozen foods and consumer foods businesses into Ajinomoto Windsor, Inc. (AWI) (April)
Formed an alliance with T.HASEGAWA CO., LTD. in the fermentation-derived natural flavors business with the aim to launch fermentation-derived natural flavors and develop the business globally within the next several years (August)
Signed an agreement to serve as an Official Partner of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games (March)
(Category: Cooking Condiments, Dehydrated Soup, Amino Acid Based Granules and Prepared Frozen Foods)
Established gastrointestinal specialty pharma EA Pharma Co., Ltd. by integrating the gastrointestinal disease business of Eisai Co., Ltd. into AJINOMOTO PHARMACEUTICALS CO., LTD. (March)
Provided products such as Ajinomoto KK Okayu, AGF Blendy bottled coffee and Amino VITAL® jelly, and donated JPY 24 million toward Kumamoto Earthquake Disaster (April)
Began sales of StemFit®, an iPS/ES cell culture medium for clinical research in the world's highest safety and performance class, in Japan in August and globally in September
Established Ajinomoto Mirai Co., Ltd., a new company to promote employment of disabled people (November): Started operation in April 2017. Promoting diversity by expanding opportunities for disabled people
Acquired a 33.33% stake in Promasidor Holdings Limited for approximately JPY 55.8 billion (November): Aimed at becoming a leading player in the African Food Market together with Promasidor Holdings Limited
Launched Mai Asa Histidine®: For reducing fatigue and a clearer head! Supports brain fatigue care (Foods with Function Claims) (January, via its own mail-order service) (January)