It was a fish paste shortage in Japan that led to Manildra Group becoming a leading supplier of 100 per cent Australian products prized as safe and reliable in the world’s third-biggest economy.
In 1982, when the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea imposed a 200-mile fishing limit for the key ingredients in the popular Japanese delicacy kamaboko (cured fish paste), vital wheat gluten and starch emerged as integral binders to extend the lifespan of this seafood delicacy.
Manildra Group Chairman Dick Honan and General Manager Peter Simpson saw an opportunity for the family-owned company to introduce premium Australian-owned, grown and made vital wheat gluten and starch to the Japanese market.
“When our first container of vital wheat gluten landed in Japan in 1982, it was an extraordinary achievement becoming the first company in the world to export gluten into this market,” said Mr Simpson.
In the more than 40 years since, Manildra Group has grown to become one of Japan’s biggest suppliers of all-Australian food and industrial products – including ethanol, starch and gluten for use in noodles, protein drinks, baked goods, snacks, alcoholic drinks, sanitisers, paper and wallpaper paste.
“Our products are renowned in Japan because they come from high-quality Australian, non-GMO premium wheat,” said Mr Simpson.
He said Manildra Group had strong relationships with all the leading major Japanese trading companies “which we strengthened through continual visits to Japan and welcoming our customers to our world-class manufacturing sites in Australia.”
“The Manildra Group–Japan partnership is one of our closest and most mature in Asia – relationships that are underpinned by trust and friendship,” said Mr Simpson.
“For more than 40 years, Manildra Group has maintained extremely steady prices into the Japanese market, consistently providing a continuous supply of 100 per cent Australian-grown and made products despite droughts and difficult market conditions at times.”
As Chairman and President of Itochu Taiwan Corporation, one of Japan’s leading trading companies, Shuji Oe said Manildra Group had been exceptional in terms of stable supply, consistent quality and competitive pricing to the Japanese market regardless of variable global market situations or adverse weather conditions.
“I’ve been always impressed with the Manildra way, which envisions long-term relationships and win-win situations among the seller and buyer,” said Mr Oe.
“The principle has been nurtured between the top management and the employees in a small community through many years of experience. I hope the strong bond between Manildra and Itochu would continue for many decades from now.”
Mr Simpson said that Japanese customers relied on Manildra Group products as the benchmark for quality, consistency and innovation.
“Japanese consumers are extremely quality-conscious, and we have spent decades fine-tuning our quality regime to meet their strict requirements – which has ultimately made Manildra Group a better company,” Mr Simpson said.
“We also work with our Japanese customers in pioneering product development.”
As CEO of leading agricultural products specialist Vox Trading Co, Haruki Kawabe said that Manildra Group had since the 1970s been supplying 120 million Japanese consumers with Australian-grown and made vital wheat gluten and starch, which are essential ingredients in traditional Japanese foods such as ramen and noodles.
“Australia is blessed with rich natural assets and Manildra Group’s products exceed Japanese consumer associations of Australia as a ‘clean and green’ country,” said Mr Kawabe. “We value Manildra Group’s sincere sales style, continually supplying the Japanese market with ingredients produced at their state-of-the-art factories with some of the highest food safety standards in the world.
“We are very proud of our 40-year history with Manildra Group, strengthening our relationships with Chairman Dick Honan and Managing Director John Honan. Throughout Vox’s history, even as our people have moved on, we will not forget the friendship and partnership Manildra Group have provided and hope that our companies will work together for another 40 years.”
Japan is Australia’s second-largest export market. More than $40 billion worth of goods were exported to Japan in 2016–17, accounting for almost 15 per cent of Australia’s total goods exports.