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No. 362, November 1999

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Japanese Companies in the US


FOOD AND AGRICULTURAL PRODUCTS

At a projected cost of $145 million, a partnership between MITSUI & CO., LTD. (30 percent) and LAND O'LAKES, INC. (70 percent) will build the world's biggest cheese and whey production facility in California's Central Valley. Located in Tulare, which is about halfway between Fresno and Bakersfield, the plant should be operational by early 2001. It will make mozzarella and cheddar cheese as well as dried whey and whey fractions. On start-up, the factory will have a capacity of 3 million pounds of milk per day. By 2003, the owners of the yet-to-be-named joint venture expect to double capacity. The plant's output will be marketed initially in the United States, but Land O'Lakes, an Arden Hills, Minnesota- based cooperative of 6,000 dairy producers, obviously hopes that the Mitsui connection will lead to sales in Asia. Through its majority ownership of VENTURA FOODS, LLC, a City of Industry, California-headquartered manufacturer of edible vegetable oils and related products, the trader already has a substantial presence in the U.S. food products market, including margarine (see Japan-U.S. Business Report No. 352, January 1999, p. 5).

PIETRO CO., LTD., a Fukuoka manufacturer of salad dressings and similar products, is looking into U.S. production. Through a Hawaiian subsidiary, the company has been selling about 12,000 bottles of salad dressing a month in the United States, mainly to Asian- oriented grocery stores. A newly formed subsidiary in Dallas is spearheading the project. Current plans call for the plant to be open next spring. Sales are forecast to total $4.7 million a year. Pietro also is exploring the possibility of opening a chain of restaurants on the mainland. It already has five offshore establishments, including one in Hawaii.

A Hawaiian company that farm-raises abalone has received a $2 million investment from Hokkaido fish processor IHARA & CO., LTD. By mixing deep-sea water with regular ocean water, BIG ISLAND ABALONE CORP. is able to raise the mollusk to maturity in two years instead of the normal three. Ihara sees a market for the abalone in Asia and Australia as well as on the West Coast. It is projecting annual sales of Big Island's output at $7.6 million in five years.

Since 1996, SUNTORY WATER GROUP, INC. has acquired 32 bottled water suppliers, making it the undisputed number two in the business with a 9 percent U.S. market share and customers in 40 states. The last two additions were made in the same month. First, the Marietta, Georgia company, which SUNTORY LTD. formed in 1985, bought AQUA- COOL/BREWED HOT COFFEE, INC. of Portland, Oregon. That long-established firm produces a full range of bottled water products for residential and commercial delivery as well as for retail sale in Oregon, Washington and Idaho. It also provides coffee break service and traditional office coffee service. Suntory Water Group then acquired CLEARIDGE, INC. of Nashville, Tennessee. It, too, supplies a complete line of bottled water products to residential and commercial customers. This purchase bolstered Suntory Water Group's presence in markets like Orlando and Tampa, Florida and Nashville while giving it entree to the Memphis, Tennessee market.

An exchange rate of ¥106=$1.00 was used in this report. aaaaa

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