Shio koji is a traditional Japanese condiment that is made from rice, salt, and alcohol that goes through a fermentation process to produce a strong umami flavour. It boasts added enzymatic and probiotic/prebiotic benefits as well due to not being heat-treated, which gives rise to its two major functions of marination and seasoning.
“In terms of marination, shio koji is known for being an effective natural marinade that can reduce any bad smells of meat, chicken or seafood as well as improving juiciness and tenderness,” Hanamaruki Senior Sales and Planning Manager Mookda Adunwatthanachat told FoodNavigator-Asia at the recent Fi Asia 2023 show in Bangkok.
“This is attributed to the ongoing activity of enzymes in shio koji such as protease and amylase, which remain active as the product is not heat treated.
“In terms of seasoning, shio koji carries a strong natural umami flavour, which plays to our benefit as umami as a whole is on the rise as a big trend here in the ASEAN region.
“This, together with the proposition of shio koji as a natural, healthier seasoning that is enriched with prebiotics and probiotics from the fermentation process, is what we believe will appeal the most strongly to consumers in this region.”
Hanamaruki is also the only company the world currently that has developed the technology to process its shio koji into a clear liquid form with no leftover rice particles, which in turn improves its usability for both consumers and the industry.
“Marination with traditional shio koji tends to leave rice particles that stick to the meat, which requires the additional step of removal after marination – this can pose additional inconvenience for consumers and cost for industrial users,” she added.
“Using liquid shio koji means just needing to pour this in to start the marination, after which the meat can immediately be moved to the next process of cooking or coating and so on, greatly increasing the convenience element for consumers at home and businesses on a large production scale.
“Some even call liquid shio koji the all-in-one magic seasoning as it brings so much to the food with just natural flavours and colours, no artificial additives at all.”
Hanamaruki already has strong presence in Japan and South Korea as well as the United States, United Kingdom and Canada, but has now established an office base in Thailand in hopes of penetrating the South East Asian market.
“Thailand is a big market for us and we are starting with B2B here, and other major targets include Indonesia and Vietnam for now,” she added.
“Right now Japan is still our stronghold market as culturally shio koji is very strongly associated with health and wellness by consumers, so our marketing with shio koji featured prominently on the label makes it very popular.
“This product has a far more complicated taste than soy sauce or miso, as it does not have a sharp saltiness but rather a milder version that is tampered by the sweetness of the rice – some consumers even use this in ice creams or smoothies to access that complicated flavour.”
Moving forward, the firm has plans to develop a halal version of its products, as well as a powder form for manufacturer partnerships.
“Shio koji in a powder form would be easier to use in terms of packaged food products such as instant noodles or potato chips, so would be a good SKU to propose to food brands to give their products that complicated umami taste in a convenient format,” Adunwatthanachat said.
“This is planned for launch in January 2024, and in the meantime we are also working on innovating our liquid shio koji formula to remove the alcohol elements from the process, which has so far been inevitable due to the fermentation.
“But given our interest in this region, we know it is important to make this halal to gain entry to more markets and are conducting the research to do this. As it is, the powder form will also be halal upon release.”