Turkish-Japanese partnership in the food sector

Turkish-Japanese partnership in the food sector

The Chinese have brought a copper mine in Arguvan, a district in the eastern province Malatya. It is an enigma how the Chinese found out about this cute district, which is famous for its folk songs. Yet the locals seem quiet frightened about the environmental pollution of the copper mine. Some nature lovers I have come across in the village have established the Arguvan Foundation to protect nature.

This is the first time I have come across the Chinese in places one would never have imagined. I learned last year when I attended a conference in Burdur that the Chinese were buying marble quarries. Burdur was apparently already making huge marble exports to China. Probably the Chinese found it more logical to come and buy marble quarries than import marble.

The rise in the Far East’s interest in Turkey has been proven once more by the investment of Ajinomoto, which, with 104 years of experience, is one of Japan’s well-established, long-standing companies.

With 27,000 employee and activities in 130 countries, Ajinomoto has signed a 50 percent partnership deal with Kemal Kükrer, one of Turkey’s prominent companies in vinegar, pickle and spicy-sauce production. Kemal Kükrer is also one of Turkey’s well-established companies. Founded in 1915 in Eskişehir by the Kükrer family, the company was sold to the Gülel family in 1999. The Gülel family gave an impetus to the brand name and succeeded in increasing the annual 3,000 tons of production to 50,000 tons thank to a publicity campaign that started in 2007.

Sabri Gülel, the general director of Kemal Kükrer, seems quite happy with the partnership as 50 percent of the company was sold for 60 million Turkish Liras to Ajinomoto.

“We have been looking for a strategic partnership for a long time in order to acquire good know-how on world cuisine. This type of partnership was necessary to both develop our own products and their promotion in the world,” he said in our conversation.

With over 100 factories in 26 countries, the importance attached by Ajinomoto to research and development has left Sabri Gülel impressed.

“They have 1,700 people working in the R&D department, and the company allocates $350 million to this endeavor,” he said. 

The first outcome of the Kemal Kükrer-Ajinomoto partnership will be a factory to be established in the Mediterranean region. The production of Kükrer’s third factory established with the Japanese will be destined for markets in the Middle East. Gülel said they might even export to Japan in the future. But it seems that his export ambitions are not limited to Japan only.

“Italians are registering balsamic vinegar sales worth $300 million annually. Why shouldn’t we export pomegranate syrup?” he asks. 

I have humble advice for Sabri Gülel. Italian products have an important share worldwide because of the popularity of Italian cuisine. If Gülel wants to reach international markets, he has to enter into a strong cooperation with a handful of people that are trying hard to promote Turkish cuisine.