1804Founding of Nakano VinegarFounding a vinegar brewery and entering Edo

In 1804, Edo (now modern-day Tokyo), was a metropolis of one million people, where various food ingredients from every region of Japan could be found thanks to vast transportation networks, including the Gokaido (Edo Five Routes, or highways) and maritime routes.
Various food cultures developed and many high-end restaurants were opened.
Among the common people, food stalls serving convenient meals of soba, sushi and tempura were extremely popular, along with natto and other prepared dishes sold by street vendors.
In 1804, Matazaemon I came to Edo with his friend Rihei Mase, and experienced sushi for the first time.

Edo’s sushi boom

Photo: Edo’s sushi boom

Hayazushi, or “fast sushi,” was popular in Edo at the time. However, it was made with expensive rice vinegar. “If people used sake lees vinegar instead of rice vinegar, the sushi would be even more delicious and affordable.” Matazaemon I, seeing this great potential in sake lees vinegar, actively marketed it in Edo. He was able to take advantage of the maritime routes and distribution channels established through the successful sake business in Handa.

A technological waterway in Handa

Photo: A technological waterway in Handa

Securing a sufficient supply of water was always an issue for sake brewers in Handa, whose operations required a large amount of water. So they came up with the idea to establish a private waterway for their operations. Matazaemon II and III established private waterways on two occasions. In 1821, wooden pipes and joints were used over a total length of 450 meters to bring water to the sake breweries. In 1850, in a large civil engineering project, a 1,350-meter long waterway was established. This leveraged the technology in Handa, using ship carpenters who had expertise in preventing water leakage prevention, as well as civil engineers.

Establishing the foundations of Mizkan

Photo: Establishing the foundations of Mizkan

The volume of vinegar shipments to Edo continued to increase after the sushi boom in Edo. Matazaemon II developed Yamabuki, a premium sake lees vinegar with a unique brand name. He sold it as an exclusive product in Edo to expand the Edo market and distinguish the product from the competition.

1868Surviving the upheaval of the Meiji periodThe Mizkan mark

With the downfall of the Edo shogunate, which had lasted 265 years, came the age of westernization.
Due to policy promoted by the Meiji government, many brick buildings were built across Japan.
In port towns such as Yokohama, western-style restaurants opened one after another, and the food culture of Japanese people became more westernized.
In response to these tumultuous times, Mizkan actively pursued new business opportunities in areas such as beer, dairy, and banking, while continuing to run a successful vinegar business.

Expanding the vinegar market and new challenges

Photo: Expanding the vinegar market and new challenges

Since the Meiji period, the Japanese people had come to enjoy a rich and varied diet. Meals using vinegar were now common in most households. While demand for vinegar continued to grow, Mizkan decided to try its hand in the dairy business as well. It is said that this is the origin of dairy farming on the Chita peninsula. The Mizkan mark, three horizontal lines above a circle, was also created during this time. It continues to be used even today, with minor changes to the design.

Capitalist economy and Mizkan

Photo: Capitalist economy and Mizkan

With the spread of western culture during the Meiji period, many new companies were incorporated and the transition to a capitalist economy accelerated in Japan. During this time, Mizkan was also incorporated as Nakano Sumise Co., Ltd. (Nakano Vinegar). Modernization spread to the Chita peninsula, where Western-style buildings were built using bricks. The wave of modernization had reached Handa.

A new way of eating

Photo: A new way of eating

In 1928, Mizkan was searching for PR slogans to bring vinegar closer to consumers. As a result, "Leave all things vinegar to Mizkan" was chosen, and used in advertisements and other various settings. Mizkan also distributed booklets with delicious recipes featuring vinegar to help consumers use vinegar with ease. Through these booklets and the new slogan, Mizkan introduced a new way of eating while welcoming the changes of the times.

1945The Second FoundingOffer Customers Only the Finest Products

In 1956, Japan had achieved post-war reconstruction and entered a period of increasingly fast-paced economic growth. The popular phrase at the time was “no longer the post-war era.”
The environment surrounding food culture also changed dramatically. Now, various food ingredients from all over the world were available.
Mizkan continued to take on the challenge of safely and reliably contributing to a food culture which continued to grow and diversify.

A changing environment

Photo: A changing environment

In the late 1950s, the electric refrigerator, one of the “three sacred treasures” of modern life along with a television and washing machine, became a common household appliance. As a result, people could enjoy fresh vegetables and fish whenever they liked. When supermarkets became a part of everyday life, the way of selling food also changed dramatically. Amongst these changes, Mizkan established fully-automated bottling lines to ensure the quality of its products.

Mizkan’s Corporate Philosophy: the Two Principles

Photo: Mizkan’s Corporate Philosophy: the Two Principles

Offer Customers Only the Finest Products
Historically, it was at the start of a period of rapid economic growth that we came up with this principle. Owner Matazaemon Nakano VII first started using “Offer Customers Only the Finest Products” in 1959, at the start of a period of rapid economic growth. This was later framed as part of the “Three Points of View” (customer, employee, management).” The message was to “connect with customers to serve them better.” In modern-day terms, “Offer Customers Only the Finest Products” expresses how much we value our stakeholders.
Continuously Challenge the Status Quo
The earliest version of this principle came about in 1974, during the first oil crisis. The intention was to constantly look at the status quo in order to review our management of the business in a difficult economic climate. Later, we added on the “challenging” element to make it what it is today. Mizkan’s corporate philosophy is reflected in these Two Principles.

Becoming a food manufacturer

Photo: Becoming a food manufacturer

On October 1, 1964, the Tokaido Shinkansen bullet train began service between Tokyo and Osaka. On October 10, the Tokyo Olympic Games opened. 1964 became the year Japan returned to the global stage. The same year, Mizkan Ponzu (a citrus seasoned soy sauce) launched, the first product of many in response to an increasingly diversified and global food culture.

Overseas expansion

Photo: Overseas expansion

Mizkan began overseas market research in 1976, established Nakano USA in Hawaii in 1977, and in 1978 it moved to Los Angeles to continue its business. In 1981, Mizkan acquired American Industries Company after 5 years of in-depth research, and successfully made a full-scale entry into the US market. When Mizkan decided to enter the US market, Matazaemon Ⅶ said “To make our own luck, appreciate what we have, look for what we could do better, work single-mindedly, and think carefully but move decisively.”

2004From “Mitsukan” to “mizkan”“Bringing Flavor to Life

Japan struggled to recover from the post-bubble collapse, and its future was unclear.
Kazuhide Nakano (then known as Matazaemon VIII) developed a new Group Vision in 2004, so that Mizkan could continue to grow in any environment.
He declared that Mizkan must practice the Two Principles at all times to realize performance improvement through continuous quality improvement. With this, Mizkan took on new challenges while continuing to innovate.

A new Corporate Symbol and Group Vision Slogan

Photo: A new Corporate Symbol and Group Vision Slogan

In 2004, for the notation of the Mizkan company name switched from the Japanese katakana script “ミツカン” to the alphabetic “mizkan.” This represents Mizkan’s resolve to keep innovating and challenging itself in an ever-changing environment.
“Mizkan” was adopted instead of “Mitsukan” to make it shorter and easier to remember for people all over the world.

Bringing Flavor to Life, the new Group Vision Slogan, was also adopted at this time as a statement of the value Mizkan offers customers. Mizkan takes great pride in making food that nourishes people while recognizing the immense responsibility this brings. Bringing Flavor to Life reflects these commitments.


Photo: Globalization

In 1974, Kazuhide Nakano realized the importance of “diversifying assets and revenue streams in major currencies” after hearing his father-in-law’s story. His ancestor was an indigo merchant who had large deals with the regional government in Awa (area in modern-day Tokushima). When he had to move out of Awa for political reasons, he acquired a sake brewery in Kotohira (neighboring Awa), an area directly under the shogunate’s control. Then he diversified his assets and revenue into the three areas of Kotohira, Namba (modern-day Osaka), and Edo. Namba and Edo were, respectively, the commercial and political capitals.
Kazuhide Nakano started setting aside capital in 2000, and established a fund. From there on, there has been a clear emphasis on increasing revenues while diversifying assets and revenue streams into different major currencies.

Photo: RAGU™, Bertolli™, Sarson's™, Branston™

In Europe, Mizkan acquired Sarson's in 2012 and Branston in 2013. Finally, with access to larger funds obtained, Mizkan acquired RAGÚ and Bertolli in North America in 2014.
Due to these acquisitions, the percentage of sales from overseas for the entire Mizkan Group exceeded 50% for the first time.