President's column Vol.3
Fulfilling common but special needs with sincerity.
What the power of food can accomplish.
There were days when I didn't want to go to school.
It had to do with my family's business.
My family used to make medicine.
The term medicine may be misleading since what they dealt with was totally different from modern drugs.
They carried herbal teas and folk remedies such as to cold cures.
The way herbal teas were prepared was very simple.
It started with cutting up herbs and roasting them in a huge cast-iron pot, which filled the whole place with smoke.
The entire house, if not the whole village, would be wrapped in a ginger-like smoky aroma.
Of course the laundry hung outside would absorb the odor.
I would end up going to school the next day with smelly clothes.
The kids would wonder why I smelled different.
I was so embarrassed that I played hooky from time to time.
Somewhere down the line, my family business started to make some other odd products in addition to medicine.
I asked my parents what had triggered the shift.
In the 1950s, my father, who was working as a sales representative, once visited the food service department of a big hospital.
He peeked inside the kitchen and spotted some sukiyaki that just kept on cooking.
It certainly had gone past its prime and all the ingredients were totally overcooked.
"What a waste. What are you doing that for?" My father asked one of the dietitians harboring some resentment.
Her answer was, "Oh, that. We cook it some more and then strain it with a gauze."
"But that would not be appetizing at all."
"We just use the cooking liquid, not any of the meat."
"We feed it to some patients through nose tubes connected to their stomachs.
It is such a nuisance because more and more patients require such treatment"
When my father heard this, he had a brain wave.
For my father, who grew up in Iida City in Nagano Prefecture, one of the most nutritious foods was eggs.
He wondered if he could powderize the eggs.
However, it is the nature of eggs to solidify when heated.
So my father came up with a method of drying raw eggs after breaking them down with enzymes.
This form of eggs does not solidify and is more digestible.
The powder is dissolved with hot water before feeding it through a tube.
This idea was apparently very revolutionary at the time.
As soon as it was introduced to the market, it became very popular.
The product was called "Egron." I thought it was just like my father to give it a name like that.
There are various reasons why some patients require tube feeding.
Some have brain disorders, disturbed consciousness from an external injury and post-surgery trauma from operations on upper parts of the gastrointestinal tract such as the pharynges and esophagus.
After that, the product went through many improvements.
In addition to eggs that primarily provide the protein, dextrin, a type of enzyme-treated starch, was added together with spray dried powder oil, which was prepared by emulsifying equal parts of rice oil and soybean oil. Mixing in some adequate amounts of vital vitamins turned this into an almost nutritionally complete food.
This is what we now know as semi liquid food.
The product name is "Aior."
I asked my father what it meant, and he laughingly answered, "Ai ("love) is all."
Going through continuous improvements, Aior became very popular.
On the other hand, the sales of medicine, which originally comprised the core business, were on the decline.
My father started to think less about medicine.
Aior has been widely used in hospitals.
Hospitals find it especially useful for patients with serious conditions since the recovery is so evident.
It must have amazed them since they never realized that food could make such a difference.
It was really no surprise because you are giving nutrients to someone that couldn't obtain any at all.
My father who realized the potential and power of food stopped producing medicine.
The name of the company then was still Sankyo Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd.
It was not for another 30 years that the company name was changed.
I took over the business shortly after my father passed away, and fifteen years later the name of the company was changed to Nutri Co., Ltd. in 2006.
The name was derived from the word nutrition.
My father's belief that food can make a difference still remains true to this day.
To be continued…
Author : Susumu Kawaguchi
Chairman & CEO
Nutri Co., Ltd
Illustrator : Nakajo Junichi