By Abuchi Onwumelu
West African Seasoning Company Limited, makers of AJI-NO-MOTO (Umami Seasoning) recently in the metropolitan city of Onitsha celebrated 110 years of the product’s existence with a call on Ndi Anambra to ignore detractors and competitors and continue to patronize AJI-NO-MOTO Umami Seasoning.
The seasoning making company according to the organizers, came to Nigeria in 1991 and had since permeated all the nooks and crannies of the country.
The 110-year Anniversary, which was preceded by a courtesy visit to the palace of the Obi of Onitsha, Igwe Alfred Nnaemeka Achebe, attracted all manner of people, ranging from medical practitioners, traders, distributors, consumers and stakeholders.
Speaking during the occasion, the Managing Director of the company, Mr. Junichi Niki, tracing the history of the product, said it began its success story as a food enhancer in 1908, noting that the Japanese Scientist, Professor Kikunae Ikeda, discovered monosodium glutamate and sold the franchise to AJI-NO-MOTO in 1909. AJI-NO-MOTO, in Japanese, means essence of taste.
Mr. Niki stated that AJI-NO-MOTO was made from sugarcane molasses and produced through the natural process of fermentation, just as ogiri was fermented from Ugba/egusi, iru and dadawa fermented from soya bean. He said that the seasoning was pure and stable, and produced and packaged under hygienic conditions, as well as being used all over the world.
Assuring that one could keep it over a long period of time, he described it as economical, with the ability to bring out the preferred deliciousness in every dish.
Speaking on how AJI-NO-MOTO is made, Mr. Niki said after acquiring the sugarcane, the cane is transported to the factory where its juice is extracted.
‘Sugar is separated from molasses. A thick, dark syrup is then fermented. Fermentation is the same process which is used to produce iru, ogiri, dadawa, soya, vinegar, etc. The fermentation process converts the molasses into glutamic acid.
‘Crystals are formed during a heating and evaporation process. This mixture is then liquefied so that it can be neutralized and decolorized. Further heating and evaporation produce the pure white monosodium glutamate (or MSG) crystals. After, it is separated and dried, it’s put into the famous red and white AJI-NO-MOTO package under hygienic conditions,’ he explained.
On the history and emergence of the product, Mr. Niki said that in 1907, Dr. Kikunae Ikeda, a chemist, developed UMAMI taste from Konbu seaweed.
‘Mr. Saburosuke Suzuki II established Suzuki Seiyakusho Co. Kikunae Ikeda. In 1908 Dr. Ikeda acquired a patent for manufacturing seasoning (monosodium glutamate),’ he explained.
In their separate speeches, the marketing manager, Mr. Isa Hassan Shallangwa, the Corporate Communication Officer of the company, and others spoke highly of the company, advising people to patronize the product which they described as a must buy for every family.
They said AJI-NO-MOTO had no side effect and was good for the body.
Some of the participants who spoke to Fides, Hon. David Okagbue, a native of Onitsha; and Miss Dike Olivia, Science Lab Technologist; said they would go all out to pass the message of AJI-NO-MOTO to the people.