A visit to Mugioto Bakery in Tokachi, Hokkaido was a highlight of the Japan leg of the 2017 Nuffield Global Focus programme.
Mr Masanori Sugiyama is a businessman who realised that running a chain of bakeries in Tokachi would not be financially sustainable over the long term because of the price sensitivity of bread and baked goods.
Mr Maeda, a wheat and vegetable farmer in Tokachi was facing similar challenges with downward price pressure in a commodity market.
What seemed like an unsurmountable problem for two very different businesses has become a success story over the last few years. The two businessmen collaborated on a project to use the locally grown Tokachi wheat from Mr Maeda’s farm, in the baked goods sold in the Mugioto bakeries.
Bread is a food that can be bought in Japan very cheaply and round the clock, but by focusing on creating a product from local wheat, Mugioto are able to sell their product at double the price of the competition. Four years ago they moved from using 100% imported wheat to 100% Tokachi wheat.
The farmer, Mr Maeda, until that point had never tasted his own wheat in any product.
The Mugioto site has a small wheat field, a stone mill and windmill for milling the flour. Customers are able to see the process from field to finished baked goods in one location and become part of the process. Children are encouraged to visit and take food education lessons where they take part in activities including pizza making.
Japan has around 40% food self-sufficiency, but in bread wheat this figure is only 3%.
The Mugioto bakery’s corporate brand is now focused on local food production for local food consumption and with the passion of farmers in the Tokachi area, they are ensuring sustainable and healthy food production for the future.