1940s & ’50s
With Japan’s resources exhausted by World War II, food shortages were a serious problem during the immediate postwar era. There was no food to distribute in urban areas, so people turned to the black market to find food. The country had emerged from this dark period by the 1950s, and the consumption of food began to rise, with Western foods having a growing impact on eating habits.
The Japanese government consolidated fishery companies to form the Teikoku Marine Products Control Company (currently Nichirei), in order to manage the country’s marine resources during the war.
Teikoku Marine Products was heavily damaged during the war, but was revived as a private company in order to help address Japan’s widespread postwar food shortage.
Rising consumption boosts business
As the nation’s war wounds healed and consumption increased, demand for fish and meat grew. Nippon Reizo recognized the business opportunity, and steadily expanded its meat and poultry, as well as its processed foods businesses, in parallel with its frozen food, refrigeration, and marine products businesses.
Japan had entered a period of rapid economic growth, and the three essential status symbols of a television, washing machine, and refrigerator became commonplace in the home. However, Japan’s development stagnated with the oil crises of 1973 and 1979.
1960s Use of refrigerators
By the 1960s, refrigerator-freezers were common household appliances. This marked the beginning of broad acceptance of frozen foods for household use.。
More women began working outside the home, which drove a shift to restaurant and takeout meals. The number of fast food and convenience store chains grew, and became an established part of everyday life. It was at this time that convenient frozen foods began to become more popular.
Nippon Reizo faced challenges on multiple fronts—including the stagnant incomes following the oil crises, slowing population growth, a peak in the number of calories Japanese consume, and a substantial loss resulting from a miscalculation in the market for marine products.
Nichirei goes to the Netherlands
Nichirei’s foray into the temperature-controlled logistics business overseas began with the establishment of an infrastructure network in Europe. We acquired a Dutch refrigerated storage company, and gradually expanded our network to Germany (1989), Poland (2004), and France (2010).
As the trend toward a low birthrate continued as the population inevitably continued to age, more women entered the workforce. Lifestyles changed with an increase in single-person households and a bigger senior population, while eating habits diversified in line with these trends. Various incidents involving food increased consumer interest and awareness of food safety.
2000 Quality assurance
Around 2000, alarms were raised about residual agricultural chemicals in frozen vegetables produced in China. Nichirei had been conducting safety monitoring through local distributors, but decided to revise its approach to include cultivation methods, management of agricultural chemicals, and to put in place a traceability system.
This framework allows us to offer products with even greater safety and reliability. Currently, a joint venture company established in China handles quality inspections, and we do not buy produce from distributors that lack the ability to comply with Nichirei’s standards. Various safety concerns have since continued to surface, and Nichirei has made strengthening its quality assurance capabilities a priority measure.
Shift to a holding company structure
Major social and economic changes made speedy decision-making and adaptation to shifting business environments a necessity. Nichirei shifted to a holding company structure, with the holding company (Nichirei Corporation) setting overall strategy for the corporate Group, and five business companies handling processed foods (Nichirei Foods), logistics (Nichirei Logistics Group), marine products, meat and poultry (Nichirei Fresh), bioscience (Nichirei Biosciences), and business support (Nichirei Proserve* merged with Nichirei Corp. in 2013).
Overseas business development accelerates
Nichirei Foods, the business company handling processed foods, established a chicken processing plant in Thailand (GFPT Nichirei) to meet the growing demand for processed chicken products. Along with exports to Japan, these products are sold domestically and exported to Europe. Nichirei Foods has also acquired a US Asian foods company (InnovAsian Cuisine), and sales are steadily increasing; the overseas sales ratio is expanding rapidly.
Nichirei Logistics Group, the company handling temperature-controlled logistics, has also expanded its overseas network, from a presence in Europe in 1988, to China in 2004, and Thailand in 2013.
New refrigerated warehouses
Import volume is growing, and cargo is increasingly being concentrated in the major consuming areas of Tokyo and Kansai. The Nichirei Logistics Group is steadily enhancing its storage capacity, and recently established the Higashi-Ogishima Distribution Center (Kawasaki) in the greater Tokyo area, and the Sakishima Distribution Center (Osaka) in the Kansai area.