Kimura Milk Plant
Trusted Amid Ongoing Rumor Damage
Trusted Amid Ongoing Rumor Damage
Fukushima Minpo Co., Ltd. (Iwaki Branch)
The coastal area of Fukushima Prefecture received massive tsunami damage following the Great East Japan Earthquake in March last year. While the area is now slowly recovering, the situation at TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant remains serious, and Fukushima Prefecture’s industry continues to suffer the effects of rumors surrounding the accident.
Kimura Milk Plant is the only factory within Iwaki City that manufactures milk and other dairy products. The plant resumed operations in April last year once waterworks had been restored. Some 60 percent of the firm’s products have always comprised home deliveries. The rest are sold on to stores or through outlets such as automatic vending machines.
Before the accident at the nuclear power plant, Kimura Milk delivered to 6,000 homes in Iwaki City and the neighboring Futaba district, etc. After the accident, many customers, and particularly those who lived in the Futaba district where the nuclear power plant is located, evacuated to other areas within and beyond the prefecture, causing the number of home deliveries to plummet. Forty (including part-timers) of Kimura Milk’s staff also had to evacuate. What was the driving force that got Kimura Milk back on its feet? Company president Kinichiro Kimura (59) recalls that people’s support and the efforts of his employees were crucial.
As soon as the factory was back in business, staff went out to find milk sources and check that customers were okay. Before the nuclear accident, the plant had used milk made locally in Iwaki. Because milk shipments from Fukushima Prefecture were temporarily suspended due to the effects of the nuclear accident, the plant sourced milk instead from Iwate Prefecture.
The plant’s staff went out together to confirm the safety of Kimura Milk’s customers. They all came back to the company from wherever they had gone following the accident to visit the houses of all the customers who had patronized the company’s products. At the time, there were severe fuel shortages everywhere. Because a business partner accommodated Kimura Milk with a special gasoline supply, the company car tanks were always full. Kimura says that it was this kind of support that enabled the company to check customer safety and work toward resuming operations.
Efforts by staff and trust in the company’s products have seen deliveries rise from the initial 1,000-2,000 households back to around 4,500. Kimura Milk handles not only dairy products but also rice, miso, soy sauce, supplements and other products useful in daily life and in promoting health, and people living in temporary accommodation too have been delighted to have Kimura Milk products delivered to their doorsteps.
At the same time, the company has not managed a complete recovery, and production remains down. Before the accident, Kimura Milk made and shipped three tonnes, or 3,000 one-liter bottles, per day. That has gone done to 2.5 tonnes, or 2,500 one-liter bottles, per day, while operating days have dropped from six a week down to four.
To get properly back on its feet, Kimura Milk is working to cut costs, expand its product range and develop new products. Among its ambitious new undertakings, the company has bought gelato-making equipment and is increasing its range, while also developing a yoghurt liqueur together with a brewery.
The company was originally established in 1912 as the Kimura Raw Milk Store. Kinichiro Kimura is the third generation of his family to lead the business. As is evident in the company’s motto—‘to make health and deliver happiness, sustaining the reliable food culture of our predecessors’—the company puts top priority on the trust placed in it by consumers and the local community.
Many dairy products in Japan are manufactured using a super-high-temperature sterilizing process that sterilizes for one to three seconds at more than 120 degrees. Kimura uses a pasteurizing process, sterilizing its products for 15 minutes at 85 degrees and then placing them in cool storage. Milk is shipped in glass bottles, and many fans of Kimura Milk rave about the real, untainted milk flavor of its products.
Since the nuclear accident, products undergo rigorous testing for radioactive substances, with every effort made to ensure product safety. Customers are informed of clear results, and these are also regularly updated on the company’s website.
Immediately after the March disaster, customers from all over the country visited the antenna stores operated by Fukushima, Iwate and Miyagi Prefectures—the prefectures most affected by the earthquake and tsunami—in Tokyo to buy local specialties as a way of offering support. However, as of around a year after the disaster, customer numbers began to fall away. At Fukushima’s Yaesu Tourist Exchange Center, sales peaked at around 40 million yen in April last year, but dropped below 10 million yen in January and February this year. March, which marked one year since the disaster, saw a recovery to over 10 million yen, but sales have slumped again since April.
Kimura Milk Plant has seen a similar trend. Kimura explains that it has become difficult to keep sales up at the same level as immediately after the disaster. As the only milk producer in Iwaki City, Kimura Milk is working hard to ensure that it makes and ships safe and reliable products. Kimura remains forward-looking. Noting that people kept on waiting for the company’s products even while they were struggling to get by in evacuation shelters and temporary housing, he promises to keep on supplying the products that everyone has come to know and trust. As you can see, Fukushima factories remain engaged in a dedicated self-help effort to move past the nuclear accident and get their businesses back on their feet.
(original article : Japanese)