Adaptation – the sauce of advantage…

It is amazing to think that soy sauce has not always been a ubiquitous presence in Western pantries. This story in The Economist tells the fascinating tale of Kikkoman’s rise as the global soy sauce brand of choice, and the associated multinational’s rise to become a significant player in the international food industry.

kikkomanThe neat part of the tale from an IB perspective is the company’s efforts to adapt. Adaptation is typically presented as one key strategic lever or pressure in the international markets (often weighed up against the pressures or scope to integrate operations into a global value chain).

Kikkoman made huge efforts to educate Western consumers to the uses of soy sauce, offering tailored recipes that would showcase its flavours in traditional Western dishes. Over time, consumers have also moved closer to its traditional uses, as Asian cuisines have becopme more commonplace. It wouldn’t be a stretch to say Kikkoman played an important role in preparing our palates for this shift.

There are other adaptation stories within their history. They have adapted to different supply arrangements (i.e. sourcing from host nations in some instances) and varied consumer preferences (such as Australia’s (and presumably Europe’s) discomfort with genetically modified soy).

All in all, quite a saucy tale… (OK, that’s enough puns from me).


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