「お茶づけ海苔」を発明した即席食品メーカー

[From April Issue 2015]
201504-7
Nagatanien
Tea in its many forms is deeply connected to Japanese history and culture. One of the most popular teas consumed today is sencha; a green tea invented by NAGATANI Soshichiro – founder of what was to become Nagatanien Co., Ltd. – in the Edo era (17-19th centuries). That is to say that originally the Nagatani family ran a tea production business. Sencha was eventually exported to Western countries and, along with raw silk thread, became one of Japan’s major exports.
In 1952, NAGATANI Yoshio, the tenth Nagatani to run the family business, developed “Ochazuke Nori” with his father Takezo so that people could easily consume delicious ochazuke (a dish of rice and tea) at home. At that time ochazuke nori was powdered shredded seaweed, seasoning, and arare (rice crackers) mixed together by hand. As neither aluminum foil nor polyethylene was available in those days, to prevent humidity from spoiling the seaweed, 100 bags of double the usual thickness were stored in a bottle that had a layer of lime placed inside its base.
Sales of Ochazuke Nori steadily increased and it eventually became a hit product nationwide. In 1953, a year after the product was launched, Yoshio established Nagatanien Honpo Co., Ltd. He subsequently created a series of long selling products such as “Matsutake no Aji Osuimono,” “Sake Chazuke,” “Asage” and “Sushi Taro,” all of which can still be found in stores today.
In 1979, a man, who was in charge of the production department, was chosen to be the company’s first “idle employee.” Yoshio told him, “You don’t have to come to work. You can spend as much as you want. You don’t need to report back. Eat whatever you want and come up with something in two years.” Having created a series of hit products, Yoshio knew that “good ideas don’t only surface when you’re sitting at a desk.”
The man from the production department followed his orders and, searching for ideas for new products, traveled extensively sampling food both in and outside of Japan. Two years later, he ended up launching “Mabo Harusame,” a combination of “Chinese soup” and “harusame” (thin noodles). Mabo Harusame, the world’s first instant Chinese food, was a big hit. Along with this product, the dish itself became popular nationwide.
In 2003, the A-Label range for people with food allergies was created. During the developmental stage, some employees voiced concerns that it would be hard to maintain quality without eggs, milk and flour, but these difficulties were overcome with the launch of a curry in a sealed plastic pouch and furikake (dried seasoning for rice). In response to an unexpected influx of positive comments from mothers – such as “I’ve been waiting for a product like this” and “Please create more products like this in the future” – more resources are being allocated to product development and the marketing of this range.
At the time of writing, the “What are you going to put on Japan?” project, to get consumers to suggest new ways of eating Ochazuke Nori, is underway. Ochazuke, made of typical ingredients used in Japanese cuisine such as rice, tea and seaweed, is likened to Japan itself. “Ochazuke cars” are now traveling around Japan showcasing recipes that incorporate local delicacies.
Nagatanien Co., Ltd.
Text: ITO Koichi[2015年4月号掲載記事]
201504-7
永谷園
お茶は日本の歴史と文化に関係の深い飲み物で、たくさんの種類があります。このうち、今日でも広く飲まれている煎茶は株式会社永谷園の創始者となる永谷宗七郎さんが江戸時代(17~19世紀)に発明しました。つまり、永谷家はもともと製茶業を営んでいたのです。やがて煎茶は欧米各国に輸出されるようになり、生糸と並んで日本を代表する商品となりました。
10代目の永谷嘉男さんは1952年、家庭でおいしいお茶漬けが簡単に食べられるようにと父の武蔵さんと一緒に「お茶づけ海苔」を開発しました。お茶づけ海苔は刻み海苔、調味粉、あられを手作業で合わせたものでした。アルミ箔もポリエチレンもない時代なので、海苔が湿気ないよう袋を二重にし、底に石灰を敷いたびんに100袋ずつ詰めました。
お茶づけ海苔は順調に売り上げを伸ばし、全国的なヒット商品に成長。嘉男さんは発売翌年の1953年に株式会社永谷園本舗を設立しました。嘉男さんはその後も「松茸の味お吸いもの」「さけ茶づけ」「あさげ」「すし太郎」など、今日でも店頭に並ぶロングセラー商品を続々と生み出しました。
1979年、ある開発担当者は同社初の「ぶらぶら社員」に選ばれます。嘉男さんは「出社は自由。経費も無制限。報告も不要。食べたいものを食べて、2年後に結果を出
せ」と命じました。ヒット商品を次々に作った嘉男さんは「良いアイディアが浮かぶのは、机に向かっている時だけではない」と考えていたからです。
開発担当者は命令に従い、国内外をくまなく食べ歩いて新商品のアイディアを探し続けました。2年後、「中華スープ」と「春雨」を組み合わせた「麻婆春雨」を送り出すことになります。麻婆春雨はそれまで世界のどこにもなかった中華おかずの素として大ヒット。商品と共に、この料理自体も全国に広まっていきました。
2003年には食物アレルギーに配慮したA-Labelシリーズが生まれました。開発中には、卵や乳、小麦を使わずに同じ品質を保つのは困難という声もありましたが、苦労の末にレトルトカレーとふりかけを販売。「こういう商品を待っていました」「これからも増やしてください」という母親の声が予想以上に多いため、この分野の商品開発、普及活動に力を注いでいます。
現在はお茶づけの新しい食べ方を提案するプロジェクト「日本の上に何のせる?」を行っています。米、お茶、海苔など、日本を代表する食材でできているお茶づけを、日本に例えました。「お茶づけカー」が日本各地をまわり、それぞれの名産品を取り入れたレシピを紹介しています。
株式会社永谷園
文:伊藤公一

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