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Japanese giant wants soy sauce to be the ‘ketchup of India’

AFP . Mumbai
30 Aug 2021 00:00:00 | Update: 30 Aug 2021 01:02:17
Japanese giant wants soy sauce to be the ‘ketchup of India’
A chef prepares a samosa filling with mince meat with Kikkoman Soy Sauce at the Ishaara restaurant in Mumbai, July 16, 2021– AFP Photo

Every dish tastes better with a dash of soy sauce, even dessert: that’s the ambitious pitch of Japanese food giant Kikkoman, hoping to persuade Indians to use it in curries, sweets and everything in between.

Convincing 1.3 billion people to add a staple of East Asian cuisine to their butter chicken and samosas is no cakewalk but it will likely be easier than the brand’s 1960s push into the United States.

“When we entered the US, people thought we were selling bug juice because of its dark colour,” Harry Hakuei Kosato, Kikkoman’s India representative, told AFP.

Today the brand’s funnel-shaped dispenser is a ubiquitous presence in US households, accounting for half of the firm’s $4.4 billion revenues, and Kikkoman now hopes to replicate that success in India.

Sales were boosted by the West’s growing craze for Japanese cuisine since the 1980s, but the company is taking a different approach to India, which is home to a significant vegetarian population.

“It is not about getting everyone to eat sushi. We want our soy sauce to become the ketchup of India,” said Kosato.

He hopes that the move to market the sauce as an endlessly adaptable condiment will strike a chord in a country where culinary innovation is part of street food culture.

For instance, Mumbai’s grilled Bombay Sandwich -- a hawker staple -- is a buttered British-style toastie, but with a filling that includes boiled potato, onion, tomato, beetroot, and coriander chutney, topped with a sprinkling of “sev”, a crunchy deep-fried Indian snack.