Ajinomoto Co., Inc.
Native name
Ajinomoto Kabushiki-gaisha
Public (K.K.)
Traded as TYO: 2802
MYX: 2658
Industry Food industry
Founded 1917 (1917)
(as S. Suzuki & Co. Ltd.)
Headquarters Chūō, Tokyo, Japan
Key people
Masatoshi Ito (President & Chief Executive Officer)
Products seasonings, cooking oils, TV dinners, sweeteners, amino acids and pharmaceuticals
Revenue Decrease ¥1,172 billion (FY 2013)[1]
Decrease ¥71 billion (FY 2013)[1]
Increase ¥48 billion (FY 2013)[1]
Total assets Decrease ¥1,091 billion (FY 2013)[1]
Total equity Increase ¥691 billion (FY 2013)[1]
Number of employees
27,518 (2013)[1]
Website Ajinomoto Group

Ajinomoto Co., Inc. (味の素株式会社 Ajinomoto Kabushiki-gaisha) is a Japanese food and chemical corporation which produces seasonings, cooking oils, TV dinners, sweeteners, amino acids, and pharmaceuticals. In particular it is the world's largest producer of aspartame, with a 40% global market share.[2]

AJI-NO-MOTO (味の素, "essence of taste") is the trade name for the company’s original monosodium glutamate (MSG) product.[3]

The company's head office is located in Chūō, Tokyo.[4]

Ajinomoto operates in 26 countries, employing around 27,518 people as of 2013.[1] Its yearly revenue in the fiscal year of 2013 stands at around US$12 billion.[1]


Ajinomoto products

Monosodium glutamate

Ajinomoto’s main product, monosodium glutamate (MSG) seasoning, was first marketed in Japan in 1909, having been discovered and patented by Kikunae Ikeda. He found that the most important compound within seaweed broth for common use was actually a glutamate salt, which he identified with the taste umami, a word meaning 'pleasant taste' or 'savoriness'. As the simplest such salt for human consumption, the popularity of MSG helped the company rapidly expand to other countries, with Ajinomoto U.S.A., Inc. established in 1956.

Before the eventual publicity, the conglomerate was founded on Ikeda's work: it was the first to suggest that industrially purified glutamic acid salts, residues or analogues, originally found in seaweed or dried fish-based broth, might have a characteristic taste of its own. That idea was rapidly connected to the much older Japanese, culinary term of umami. This led to early adoption of MSG as a culinary agent in Japan.


Ajinomoto is the world's largest manufacturer of aspartame, sold under the trade name Aminosweet. It acquired its aspartame business in 2000 from Monsanto for US$67,000,000.[5]


Ajinomoto supplies the amino acid L-Glutamine.


Lysine price-fixing (1990s)

Ajinomoto was a member of the Lysine price fixing cartel in the mid-1990s. Along with Kyowa Hakko Kogyo, and Sewon America Inc., Ajinomoto settled with the United States Department of Justice Antitrust Division in September 1996. Each firm and one executive from each pleaded guilty as part of a plea bargain to aid in further investigation. Their cooperation led to Archer Daniels Midland settling charges with the US Government in October 1996 for $100 million, a record antitrust fine at the time.[6] The cartel had been able to raise Lysine prices 70% within their first six months of cooperation.[7]

2000 to 2008

By mid-2000, Ajinomoto's acquisition of NutraSweet and 'Euro-Aspartame' from Monsanto had been completed.[5]

In early 2001, Ajinomoto was involved in a scandal in majority-Muslim Indonesia when it emerged that a pork-based enzyme had been used in its production of MSG.[8]

In January 2006, the company bought the cooking sauce and condiments manufacturer Amoy Food from the French dairy product company Groupe Danone, which had run the division as the "Amoy Asian food unit".[9] At the time of the acquisition, Ajinomoto was the largest Japanese maker of seasonings.[9]

Lawsuits against Asda (20082010)

In 2008, Ajinomoto sued British supermarket chain Asda, part of Wal-Mart, for a malicious falsehood action concerning its aspartame product when the chemical was listed as excluded from the chain's product line along with other "nasties".[10] In July 2009, a British court found in favour of Asda.[11] In June 2010, an appeal court reversed the decision, allowing Ajinomoto to pursue a case against Asda to protect aspartame's reputation.[12] At that time, Asda said that it would continue to use the term "no nasties" on its own-label products,[13] however, the suit was settled out of court in 2011 after Asda removed references to aspartame from its packaging.[14]

2010 to present

In late 2012, the Company sold its Calpis beverage unit to Asahi Breweries for US$1,500,000,000.[15]

In 2013, the Company acquired the contract manufacturing organization Althea Technologies for US$175,000,000 in a bid to expand biopharmaceutical manufacturing in the United States.[16]

Corporate governance

As of April 2013, the president and CEO of Ajinomoto Group was Masatoshi Ito.[16]

Ajinomoto’s chairman since June 2005, Kunio Egashira, died on April 7, 2008.[17] Egashira had previously served as the company's president from June 1997.[17]


According to the Global Corporate website, there are three major types of subsidiaries based on the products they produce: Seasonings and Processed Foods, Frozen Foods and Amino Acids; the number of subsidiaries in each category number 27, 9 and 12, respectively, and most are geographically defined entities.[18]

North America

Ajinomoto North America, Inc. is a wholly owned subsidiary of Ajinomoto Co.[19] It is headquartered in Fort Lee, New Jersey and covers operations in the United States, Mexico and Canada.[20] According to the company, it is the "only pharmaceutical L-amino acid manufacturer in the United States."[19]

Chemicals units

Ajinomoto has three divisions devoted to chemical manufacture outside of the amino acid manufacturing area: NaturalSpecialities and Tensiofix are subunits of Omnichem, which is headquartered in Belgium.[21][22][23]

See also


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 "Financial Report for the fiscal year ended March 31, 2013" (PDF). Ajinomoto Group. Retrieved 2013-09-30.
  2. Matsui, Akira; Morita, Issei (November 18, 2004). "Ajinomoto May Exceed Full-Year Forecasts on Amino Acid Products". Bloomberg.com. Retrieved June 23, 2010.
  3. Sand, Jordan (2005). "A Short History of MSG". Gastronomica. 5 (4): 3849. doi:10.1525/gfc.2005.5.4.38. JSTOR 10.1525/gfc.2005.5.4.38.(subscription required)
  4. "Toward the realization of "Ajinomoto Group Zero Emissions" Chuo Ace Logistics Corporation achieves "Green Management Certification" Chuo Ace Logistics Corporation promotes environmentally friendly logistics" (Press release). Ajinomoto. November 1, 2004. Retrieved February 12, 2010.
  5. 1 2 "Sweetener sale-05/06/2000-ECN". ICIS. Reed Business Information. June 5, 2000. Retrieved July 9, 2010.
  6. Bell, Meredith E.B.; Laskin, Elena (1999). "Antitrust Violations". American Criminal Law Review. 36 (3).(subscription required)
  7. A Summary Overview of the Antitrust Division's Criminal Enforcement Program (Speech). Presented by James M. Griffin.James M. Griffin, Deputy Assistant Attorney Gen., Antitrust Div., Dep't of Justice, [ : A Summary Overview of the Antitrust Division's Criminal Enforcement Program], Aug. 12, 2003.
  8. Time.com
  9. 1 2 Perri, Celeste; Sekioka, Tomomi (January 12, 2006). "Danone Sells Amoy to Japan's Ajinomoto for EU190 Mln (Update2)". Bloomberg.com. Retrieved June 14, 2013.
  10. Craven, Neil (May 4, 2008). "Asda gears up for additives battle/ aspartame". Mail Online. Associated Newspapers. Retrieved June 23, 2010.
  11. "Asda claims victory in aspartame 'nasty' case". www.foodanddrinkeurope.com. Retrieved 2010-06-23.
  12. "Court of Appeal rules in Ajinomoto/Asda aspartame case". www.foodbev.com. Retrieved 2010-06-23.
  13. "Radical new twist in Ajinomoto vs Asda 'nasty' battle". www.foodnavigator.com. Archived from the original on 6 June 2010. Retrieved 2010-06-23.
  14. Bouckley, Ben (May 18, 2011). "Asda settles 'nasty' aspartame legal battle with Ajinomoto". William Reed Business Media SAS. AP-FoodTechnongy.com. Retrieved July 18, 2011.
  15. Kachi, Hiroyuki (May 8, 2012). "Asahi to Buy Calpis for $1.5 Billion". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved June 14, 2013.
  16. 1 2 "Ajinomoto Moves into CDMO Market". News: Inside Industry. Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News. April 1, 2013. p. 12.
  17. 1 2 Uranaka, Taiga (April 9, 2008). "Ajinomoto chairman Kunio Egashira, 70, dies". Reuters. Retrieved 2008-04-19.
  18. "Major Subsidiaries and Affiliates". Ajinomoto Group. Ajinomoto. October 2012. Retrieved June 17, 2013.
  19. 1 2 "Labeled Amino Acids, Pharmaceutical Grade Amino Acids, Amino Acid Production". Ajinomomoto Amino Acid Technologies. Ajinomoto. 2013. Retrieved June 17, 2013.
  20. "Labeled Amino Acids, Pharmaceutical Grade Amino Acids, Amino Acid Production". Ajinomomoto Amino Acid Technologies. Ajinomoto. 2013. Retrieved June 17, 2013.
  21. "Contact us". Tensiofix Surfactant for Agrochemical. Ajinomoto. Retrieved June 17, 2013.
  22. "Contact us". Ajinomoto NaturalSpecialities - Polyphenols, tannic acid, gallotannins, custom extraction of botanicals, grape seed extract. Ajinomoto. Retrieved June 17, 2013.
  23. "Home". Omnichem. Ajinomoto. 2007. Retrieved June 17, 2013.

External links

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