Kinki Division Presents Products Developed with Local Producers at Press Briefing Under the Vision "Taking Root in Local Society"

 On November 9th, Ryohin Keikaku Kinki* Division held a press briefing at MUJI AEONMALL SAKAIKITAHANADA to showcase products developed with local producers. Nobuhiro Matsueda, Executive Officer and General Manager of the Kinki Division, explained why they are developing products with local producers, its background, thoughts and prospects. Ryo Fujibayashi, Manager in charge of regional product development, introduced products newly launched in November. One objective of our 2030 Vision is “to take root in local society”, and we established Regional Business Units in September 2021 in ten areas of Japan including Kinki Division.
*Kinki Region includes Osaka, Kyoto, Hyogo, Nara, Wakayama, Mie and Shiga Prefectures

 The Kinki Division has already developed more than 30 products with local producers and food manufacturers (as of October). Five more products launched in November. The division set up a press briefing to introduce the products and the background of Kinki Division. Products were displayed and tasting sessions held to appeal to the press.

<Products developed by Kinki Division>

■Close the Distance with the Community through “Food” Initiatives
 Ryohin Keikaku has set its 2030 company vision to become “to be a part of people’s daily necessities” and “to take root in local society”. To achieve these, the company has established regional divisions in 12 regions (currently 10 after reorganizing groupings) since September 2021 in order to establish a community-based business model by promoting the opening of new stores in residential areas while interacting and cooperating with residents and local government.
  “MUJI stores offer food, clothing and living environment which are the basic needs of life. Of the three, Kinki Division believes food is the most important and shall utilize its strengths to focus on taking root in local society through food," said Nobuhiro Matsueda, in charge of overseeing regional divisions. “Specifically, we have collaborated with local producers and food manufacturers to develop products. In doing so, we aim to vitalize local agriculture and businesses, improve food self-sufficiency and reducing waste.”
 As of November, the number of items developed jointly with the locals mainly in Minami Osaka and Kyoto, had reached 35, and hope to increase to 100 in the next two years. The aim is to create local supply chains in each region. “I would like for us to also partake in the production of agricultural products together with producers in the future,” said Nobuhiro.

■The Key to Product Development is to Tackle Local Issues with Passion
 The Kinki Division's first jointly developed product was Namba leeks, a traditional vegetable of Namba area. Namba leeks are characterized by its sweetness produced by their texture. It was actively cultivated in the Edo Period, but the production had declined because its texture made it difficult for machines to process.
 Ryo Fujibayashi, manager in charge of local product development, learnt about Namba leeks while visiting farmers and thought it would be a shame for such a long-loved vegetable to be on the decline, so in 2014, Café & Meal MUJI NANBA (now closed) added Namba leek to its menu. “During the coronavirus outbreak, an acquaintance of the Osaka Namba Leek Promotion Committee asked us if we could develop products using Namba leeks and donate them to medical workers. At the time, medical workers were struggling to find time to eat, and there was a need for food that is easy to consume and last a long time,” said Ryo. “And so, we developed Namba Leek Crackers, and donated it to medical workers in 2021.”
 The Namba Leek products have gained a good reputation for their taste, and more products using Namba Leek, such as Al Ajillo, mixed rice and soup were developed. The awareness and the number of customers buying Namba leeks has also increased. The producers commented that the production of Namba leeks are now on the increasing and is leading to the vitalization of the region.

 In another case, we started to sell products using local mushrooms in November, such as Al Ajillo and mushroom mixed rice. The mushrooms come from Machikado Agri Nishinari Mushroom Studio and the idea came from a problem in agricultural products. Ryo learnt that edible mushrooms were being thrown away of due to a surplus. He visited the production site and comments, “I will never forget the mountains of surplus shiitake mushrooms. I felt that I had to do something about it.” A month later he decided to add it in the menu at Café & Meal MUJI AEONMALL SAKAIKITAHANADA and started selling “Seared Shiitake Mushrooms”. They have now developed four mushroom products with local companies KOHNAN SHOKURYO Co. and AMEKAZE Co.: Al Ajillo, mixed rice, soup and a sauce for vegetables and meat.

 “We place great importance on communicating with farmers directly so we can see the challenges they face. We visit them daily to hear their stories, help with fieldwork and sometimes even share a meal to develop the relationship. It takes time to create local products, but the producers and food manufacturers have started to appreciate our efforts to tackle to resolve local issues. It’s not easy but I continue because I love what I do," said Ryo.

<Explaining the Products. Left: Ryo Fujibayashi, Right: Nobuhiro Matsueda>
<A new product made from mushroom>

<Product Information>
●Began the sale of Al Ajillo, mixed rice, soup and a soy sauce with malt that goes well with vegetables and meat from 11 November (Fri), only available in Kansai. (Japanese only)

●Peach syrup made from extracts of unutilized seeds and skins, only available in Kansai (Japanese only)

 The Kinki Division visits producers to help with crops and writes articles to tell stories about the insights gained from the experience. Ryohin Keikaku is connecting with locals and contributing to the expansion of sales channels while creating opportunities for customers to appreciate local products. “The stores are becoming even more useful to the community, and by doing so, it helps store members be more lively,” explained Nobuhiro.
 The attending media expressed that they were surprised that there were so many products and hopes the initiatives will carry on to other regions as well.

 Ryohin Keikaku hopes to raise awareness of local issues and increase the number of people involved in the community. We will continue to develop initiatives to vitalize the region and communicate our efforts.