Ajinomoto headquarters
Ajinomoto products

Ajinomoto Co., Inc. (味の素株式会社 Ajinomoto Kabushiki-gaisha?) (TYO: 2802), is a Japanese company that produces food seasonings, cooking oils, foods, sweeteners, amino acids and pharmaceuticals. It is the world's largest producer of aspartame with a 40% market share.[1]

The literal translation of Aji no Moto is “Essence of Taste,” used as a trademark for the company’s monosodium glutamate (MSG).[citation needed] As of Feb 2009, Ajinomoto produces around 33% of the world’s MSG.[citation needed] Its head office is located in Chūō, Tokyo.[2]

Ajinomoto is active in 100 countries and regions worldwide, employing around 24,861 people as of 2004. Yearly revenue stands at US$9.84 billion.[citation needed]



Monosodium glutamate

Ajinomoto’s signature product, monosodium glutamate (MSG; グルタミン酸ナトリウム) 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 seemed to give out a unique taste sensation, which he dubbed umami. As the simplest and safest such salt for human consumption, the popularity of MSG helped the company rapidly expand to other countries, with Ajinomoto U.S.A., Inc., having been established in 1956.[citation needed]

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.

Thanks to this, and to the mass production of MSG by Ajinomoto, many of the more wealthy, eastern parts of the People's Republic of China at the time adopted the product into its cuisine as well. The Korean peninsula followed thanks to its cultural closeness. Thus much of East Asia became a staple consumer of glutamate in its various forms at a rather quick pace.

Fuelled by the Japanese post-war economic miracle, the so-called Far East started to feed back into Western culture. Thus came the so called "Miraculous Sixties", and the hard wage competition from the East which continued right into the 1980s. MSG followed the profit gradient of the time, to become a major import into the Western countries, and into the US in particular.

Glutamate wasn't publicly recognized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) until the 1970s, and then had to be cleared as a food additive which had been in heavy use for some time already. There is a disputed claim that heavy use may lead to allergies. Some amount of health-scare follows the use of glutamates to this day. At the same time, clinical test results shows little evidence for toxicity, while culinary use of glutamates is widespread.

Later study shows that "umami" is indeed a fifth basic taste, but it does not suggest a seaweed flavor as much as it suggests a meat-flavor. Glutamic acid derivatives mainly come from animal, fungal, certain vegetable and bacterial sources. In culinary science it is also now commonly believed that certain plants mimic this fleshy tone by emitting glutamates and inositols as an evolutionary adaptation.

Two particular plants would be the onion family, and the tomato. This is because both release ample free glutamates and inositols, and benefit from the dissemination of seeds by some carnivorous species which also like to eat these plant species. It is believed that both derive their culinary value from the free glutamate.


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 $67M.[3]


Ajinomoto is also a leading supplier of the Amino Acid L-Glutamine.[citation needed]


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.[4]

Lysine price-fixing conspiracy

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.[5] The cartel had been able to raise Lysine prices 70% within their first nine months of cooperation.[6]

Lawsuit against supermarket chain Asda

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".[7] In July 2009, a British court found in favour of Asda.[8] In June 2010, an appeal court reversed the decision, allowing Ajinomoto to pursue a case against Asda to protect aspartame's reputation.[9] At that time, Asda said that it would continue to use the term "no nasties" on its own-label products,[10] however, the suit was settled out of court in 2011 after Asda removed references to aspartame from its packaging.[11]

Trademarks and personnel

AJI-NO-MOTO is registered as a trademark in Indonesia and Thailand.[citation needed]

Ajinomoto’s chairman, Kunio Egashira, died on April 7, 2008.[12] He had been chairman of the company since June 2005.[12] Egashira had previously served as the company's president from June 1997.[12]


  • Ajinomoto USA, Inc. is a wholly owned subsidiary of Ajinomoto Co., Inc. Includes Ajinomoto AminoScience LLC that provides amino acid products and services to a number of manufacturing and research industries.[13]
  • In the UK, it is produced through Britannia Pharmaceuticals Limited, a UK-based subsidiary.[citation needed]
  • On January 13, 2006, the company bought the cooking sauce and condiments manufacturer Amoy Food Limited previously owned by French dairy product company Danone.
  • OmniChem NaturalSpecialities is specializing in the tannin production[15].

See also


  1. ^ "Ajinomoto May Exceed Full-Year Forecasts on Amino Acid Products - Bloomberg". www.bloomberg.com. http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=newsarchive&sid=a1rBnsdDJnM8&refer=japan. Retrieved 2010-06-23. 
  2. ^ "Toward the realization of "Ajinomoto Group Zero Emissions" Chuo Ace Logistics Corporation achieves "Green Management Certification" Chuo Ace Logistics Corporation promotes environmentally friendly logistics." Ajinomoto. Retrieved on February 12, 2010.
  3. ^ "Sweetener sale-05/06/2000-ECN". www.icis.com. http://www.icis.com/Articles/2000/06/05/114953/sweetener-sale.html. Retrieved 2010-07-09. 
  4. ^ Time.com
  5. ^ Meredith E. B. Bell and Elena Laskin, "Antitrust Violations", 36 Am. Crim. L. Rev. 357
  6. ^ James M. Griffin, Deputy Assistant Attorney Gen., Antitrust Div., Dep't of Justice, The Modern Leniency Program After Ten Years: A Summary Overview of the Antitrust Division's Criminal Enforcement Program, Aug. 12, 2003
  7. ^ "Asda gears up for additives battle/ aspartame". www.thisismoney.co.uk. http://www.thisismoney.co.uk/news/article.html?in_article_id=441128&in_page_id=2. Retrieved 2010-06-23. 
  8. ^ "Asda claims victory in aspartame ‘nasty’ case". www.foodanddrinkeurope.com. http://www.foodanddrinkeurope.com/Products-Marketing/Asda-claims-victory-in-aspartame-nasty-case. Retrieved 2010-06-23. 
  9. ^ "FoodBev.com". www.foodbev.com. http://www.foodbev.com/news/court-of-appeal-rules-in-ajinomotoasda-aspartame-case. Retrieved 2010-06-23. 
  10. ^ "Radical new twist in Ajinomoto vs Asda 'nasty' battle". www.foodnavigator.com. http://www.foodnavigator.com/Legislation/Radical-new-twist-in-Ajinomoto-vs-Asda-nasty-battle. Retrieved 2010-06-23. 
  11. ^ Bouckley, Ben (May 18, 2011). "Asda settles 'nasty' aspartame legal battle with Ajinomoto". AP-FoodTechnongy.com. William Reed Business Media SAS. http://www.foodnavigator.com/Financial-Industry/Asda-settles-nasty-aspartame-legal-battle-with-Ajinomoto. Retrieved July 18, 2011. 
  12. ^ a b c Uranaka, Taiga (2008-04-09). "Ajinomoto chairman Kunio Egashira, 70, dies". Reuters. http://www.reuters.com/article/marketsNews/idUST17677720080409. Retrieved 2008-04-19. 
  13. ^ Ajinomoto AminoScience homepage, visited February 2, 2010
  14. ^ "Ajinomoto Aspartame". http://www.aji-aspartame.com/. 
  15. ^ www.natural-specialities.com

External links

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