Ajinomoto boosts nucleotide exports

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Monosodium glutamate, Glutamic acid, Ajinomoto

Japanese seasonings company Ajinomoto moves deeper into the export
market for the food flavour enhancers - nucleotide seasonings -
unveiling a 6 billion yen factory in Thailand last week.

The first nucleotide factory for the group outside Japan will act as a 'global export base', in conjunction with a marketing network already in place in about 17 countries.

'At the same time, operations in Japan will reduce the variety of items produced for greater production efficiency,'​ said the company in a statement last week.

The Thai arm of Ajinomoto - with a capital of about 17.2 billion baht (€0.3bn) - is expected to manufacture in the region of 3000 tons of nucleotide seasonings per year.

'Thailand was chosen as the site for the new factory for reasons including its suitability for procurement of tapioca starch, a main ingredient involved in the production,'​ added Ajinomoto.

The Japanese seasonings giant, that reported a revenue of Y516.14 billion for the first half year ended 30 September on the back of strong sales in amino acids, manufactures and sells sodium inosinate and sodium ribonucleotide ( a mixture of sodium inosinate and sodium guanylate).

Sodium inosinate, present in large quantities in fish, beef and poultry, is the umami component of bonito flakes used as a soup stock. Sodium guanylate is the umami component of dried shiitake mushrooms, as well as found widely in other mushrooms. Combining either of these with monosodium glutamate, which is found in kelp, brings out a robust 'umami' flavour.

In early 2002 researchers at the university of California discovered the receptor that allows us to taste the flavour found in high-protein food. The receptor for amino acids, which make up proteins, causes the umami taste found in meat and other protein-rich foods, which is often enhanced by additives.

The research published in Nature​ shows that in mice the receptor responds to nearly all of the 20 amino acids found in proteins. The human version of the receptor is most sensitive to the chemical glutamate.

Applications for nucleotide seasonings - largely produced from tapioca starch - include instant noodles (soup), soups and bouillons, seasoning mixes, and other processed foods. The standard mixing ratio (based on weight) in the case of soup is 100 parts monosodium glutamate to 1-10 parts nucleotide seasoning.

Ajinomoto launched its sodium inosinate product in 1964 and the year after sodium ribonucleotide hit the market.

At the end of last year the European Commission fined three companies involved in a food flavour enhancers (nucleotides) cartel in the 1990s. Ajinomoto and South Korean companies Cheil Jedang and Daesang were respectively fined €15.54 million, €2.74 million and €2.28 million each for participating in a price-fixing cartel in nucleotides. Takeda Chemical Industries, another Japanese firm, was also found to be part of the cartel, but it was granted full immunity from fines - under the Commission's 1996 leniency policy - for revealing the existence of the illegal agreement to the Commission.

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