Helping People Cook at Home – “Japanizing” the Canadian Market

Nov 4, 2019 | Client Stories

Japanese inspired food company, Abokichi, co-founders Jess Mantell and Fumi Tsukamoto are committed to providing products that have great quality and are creative!  

Mantell began selling onigiri, Japanese rice balls, in farmers markets and running a sandwich shop in 2014 along with Tsukamoto. The two closed the store in 2017 after realizing there were greater opportunities in the packaged good market. As a result, Abokichi pivoted to consumer packaged goods in 2018 with minimal understanding of the market and limited sales.  

Connecting with Innovation Guelph through the Fuel Injection program was a turning point. Their IG mentor helped the business partners learn about regulations, food safety and industry knowledge.   

Abokichi Co-Founder Fumi Tsukamoto accepting Fuel Injection funding from IG Program Manager Mickey Campeau

I met other entrepreneurs in the class and by networking with them I was able to gain some very useful insights and information. By learning from my peers, I could get some great results in my business. I really appreciate the IG community,” said Tsukamoto. The Fuel Injection Funding was also a big help to us for entering markets in US. 

The inability to find great-tasting sauces inspired them to make OKAZU, an umami-rich miso and sesame chili oil. Abbokichi’s customers typically care about quality products that are ethically produced and tasty. Their philosophy is that their products should always have clean ingredients and they try to help divert food waste as demonstrated with their new product, Sakekasu Instant Miso soup. 

We feel most proud when we hear that our products are helping someone’s lifestyle,” they said. “That was not our intention at first (we wanted to make it because we wanted to eat really tasty things with clean ingredients), but when we realized that OKAZU is helping the people who have food restrictions, that was an eye-opening experience.” OKAZU suits vegan, celiac and keto diets. 

Abokichi  won Top 10 for their Miso Soup at SIAL Canada. Abokichi founders are passionate about helping people to cook at home so they can eat healthier as it is easier to cook tasty meals using OKAZU and instant miso soup. 

This Japanese food brand is not only about Japan.  

I think it is the nature of Japanese people accepting foreign concepts and “Japanizing” it, said Tsukamoto who came to Canada from Japan in 2013. Now we are in North America, our products are defined by this market and ingredients we can get here. We are Japanizing the market insight and ingredients in Canada. We call it creativity!