Spotlight Ajinomoto: The Inventor of Umami

April 24, 2023
By Knowledge Leaders Team in Knowledge Leaders

The Ajinomoto Group makes amino acids used for everything from seasoning food to pharmaceuticals to manufacturing semiconductors. This Tokyo, Japan-based company’s roots go back to 1899, when Dr. Kikunae Ikeda set to work researching amino acids in order to bring Western health standards to Japan and discovered “umami.” Known as the fifth taste (after the original four–sweet, sour, salty and bitter), umami is known for adding complexity to flavors. Soon, Ikeda was granted a patent for his new umami-based seasoning AJI-NO-MOTO, or monosodium glutamate, the main component of which is an amino acid called glutamate. The company and its flagship product were launched in 1908 and became popular worldwide.

Today’s Ajinomoto is a global leader in Amino Science, a category it invented, with a wide range of businesses from seasonings, frozen foods, and sports nutrition to pharmaceuticals and cosmetics. Its innovations even extend to the semiconductor industry, for which it developed an amino acid-based film material in the 1990s that today remains a critical ingredient for insulating circuit boards.

The force behind this Knowledge Leader’s innovation strategy is its R&D team, which the firm is quick to credit with over a century of development history. Ajinomoto relies on this collective knowledge in food, fermentation, biology, chemistry, engineering, and other disciplines. The team holds over 4,000 patents in Japan and worldwide. Several dozen R&D centers in 14 countries collaborate with local customers to optimize products and technologies for their regions. Today Ajinomoto’s products reach over 700 million consumers around the globe, and one remains its most popular: the original AJI-NO-MOTO seasoning.

AJI-NO-MOTO seasoning, credit: Ajinomoto

As of 3/31/23, Ajinomoto was held in the Knowledge Leaders Strategy.

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