Contributing to Society through Food, and Protecting Children's Futures through Nutrition Education

Kewpie Corporation has been actively involved in nutrition education initiatives rooted in the ethos of "contributing to society through food," a principle inherited since the company's inception. The Kewpie Mirai Tamago Foundation was established to support organizations that share its aspirations to contribute to society. We interviewed Kewpie's Ueda Fumie and Horiike Shunsuke to learn more.
Ueda Fumie (left) and Horiike Shunsuke (right), Kewpie Corporation.

Developing Nutrition Education for Children for over 60 Years with the Spirit of "Contributing to Society through Food"

— Please tell us how your initiatives aimed at children came about, and the reasons and impetus for undertaking them.

Ueda Fumie (Public Relations and Group Communications Office): Having inherited the spirit of "contributing to society through food" from Kewpie Group founder Nakashima Toichiro, we engage in diverse nutrition-education activities, aimed mainly at children. The first such activity took place in 1961, when a local elementary school asked if they could take a social studies field trip to the Kewpie factory. That social studies field trip was the starting point for the development of all kinds of food education activities, including the current Open Kitchen (factory tour) program.

— A social studies field trip from an elementary school to the factory was the catalyst for your present initiatives. What kind of initiatives are you currently running for children?

Ueda: We run a variety of nutrition-education activities for children, but the leading three are Open Kitchen (a factory tour), Mayo Terrace (tour facility), and Delivery Classes.

Open Kitchen is a factory tour aimed at the general public. This initiative communicates the importance of food by explaining how Kewpie products are made. It strives to cultivate understanding and instill a sense of reassurance in regard to our food and products. Up to 2019, approximately 70,000 people visited Kewpie's factories, but the tour has been temporarily suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic (It resumed in June 2023). Instead, online tours are now offered at three Kewpie factories, making it possible to visit from anywhere in the country. As a result, children who were unable to attend on-site visits even before the pandemic, such as those from distant schools or hospitalized children, are now able to participate in the tours, which has been a great benefit to them.

Mayo Terrace is a tour facility located in Sengawa Kewport, which was built in 2011 on the former site of the Sengawa factory in Chofu City, Tokyo. Mayo Terrace opened in 2014 in response to requests from the public for continued opportunities for social studies tours after the closure of the Sengawa factory.

Mayo Terrace presents the history and characteristics of Kewpie Mayonnaise, as well as the Kewpie Group's attitude and approach to manufacturing. Just like Open Kitchen, the facility offers both online and offline tours. In fact, in response to a request from the Shigaraki Hospital (National Hospital Organization) in Shiga Prefecture, online tours are also provided directly to the hospital, enabling children living in various environments to tour the facility.

Children participating in the "Mayonnaise Class" delivery class.

Delivery Classes are an initiative in which Kewpie Group employees act as instructors at elementary schools across Japan to convey the joy and significance of food. In Mayonnaise Classes, held since 2002, children learn about the secrets of mayonnaise and then make it together. They experience how vinegar and vegetable oil, which do not naturally mix, emulsify and mix with the addition of egg yolks to become mayonnaise, and then compare the mayonnaise they have made with that produced at the factory. Since June 2022, the SDGs Classroom: Kewpie Group and Food Loss program has also been offered, based on our sustainability goals. These classes provide an opportunity to think together about creating a sustainable society from the standpoint of food.

Food is Fun and Joyful.  It is Important to Convey the Joy of Eating Well

— Was there anything particularly important to you or that you emphasized while implementing specific initiatives?

Ueda: We have always placed importance on children, who represent the future, being healthy in mind and body through diet. Kewpie's founder, Nakashima Toichiro, first encountered mayonnaise when he visited the U.S. before World War II, when Japanese people were much smaller than they are now. He thought that the difference in physique between American and Japanese people could be due to differences in nutrition. After returning to Japan, Nakashima began working on manufacturing nutrient-rich mayonnaise with the goal of improving the physique and dietary habits of the Japanese people, leading to today's Kewpie Mayonnaise.

These days, it is important not only to simply take in nutrients, but also to eat a variety of foods and pay attention to nutritional balance. Some children, especially those in their junior high school years, start dieting due to concerns about their body shape, which can lead to nutritional imbalances. Mayonnaise is a versatile condiment not only for vegetables, but also for meat, fish, and many other foods. Eating well is joyful and fun, and Kewpie hopes that nutrition education will help children learn about this joy and the benefits of mayonnaise. All of Kewpie's employees sincerely wish that the children will be healthy in mind and body.

Nutrition Education, Shared Naturally Based on the Founder's Philosophy, Brings Smiles to Children's Faces

— Did you encounter any obstacles or difficulties in your efforts?

Ueda: Actually, we have not faced any particular difficulties in expanding our nutrition-education activities. They are based on the philosophy of our founder, Nakashima—a concept that the company as a whole cherishes—so the notion of launching food-education activities was naturally well accepted. In fact, our employees came up with several ideas that have spread more widely.

— What kind of impressions and opinions have you heard from children actually taking part in the program, and from others involved?

Ueda: We have received positive feedback from children. They say, "I learned to enjoy cucumbers, which I used to dislike, after eating them with mayonnaise I made myself," and "It made me want to eat more vegetables with mayonnaise." It is a real pleasure for us to see children experience growth through their encounters with food. When conducting online courses for children, we also see parents taking notes diligently in the corner of the screen. It is very gratifying and rewarding for us to see not only the children but also the parents participating in the course engaging with it seriously.

— What was the reaction to these efforts within the company?

Ueda: People within the company have said, "The feedback and smiles from the children made it worthwhile." Others have commented, "Being involved in nutrition-education activities has renewed my sense of the importance of the work I do as an employee of a food manufacturer, and made me more committed to my job." It seems that through the nutrition-education activities, employees feel that they are contributing to children and to society, and this motivates them to work more positively.

Children taking part in nutrition education with Kewpie employees.

The Kewpie Mirai Tamago Foundation, a Collaboration of Organizations, Enables a Wider Range of Activities

— Could you tell us about the activities of the Kewpie Mirai Tamago Foundation, the background behind its launch, and the results it has achieved?

Horiike Shunsuke (Kewpie Mirai Tamago Foundation): The Kewpie Mirai Tamago Foundation was established to contribute to society in a way that a single company cannot—not only by advancing the Kewpie Group's own initiatives, but also by providing broad-based support for the activities of organizations that share our aspirations. It was established to provide grants to organizations involved in children's nutrition education as well as to create a place for children to grow. The Foundation does not supplement its financial resources with business profits; rather, the main source of funding for donations is dividends from Kewpie's own stock. This makes its activities less likely to be affected by business performance, enabling it to operate sustainably.

The Foundation was established in response to child poverty becoming a looming social issue around 2016. In response, Kewpie wondered whether something could be done about it, coming to the conclusion that rather than confronting this issue independently, working together could help to resolve it, which led to the launch of the Foundation.

The Foundation provided grants totaling approximately 160 million yen to around 480 organizations between 2017 and 2022 to support initiatives such as nutrition education for children and creating spaces for food-related activities.

During this period, the spread of COVID-19 left some vulnerable people in destitute circumstances. Kewpie also created a program to support organizations engaged in food support activities such as the distribution of lunch boxes to and food assistance (food pantries, etc.) for children from disadvantaged homes. The idea is that Kewpie can flexibly develop its activities in response to the social issues of the time.

Activities by organizations subsidized by the Kewpie Mirai Tamago Foundation.

Bringing Smiles to Children's Faces by Further Spreading Nutrition Education

— Can you tell us about your vision and outlook for the future, such as further improvement to or expansion of your current initiatives?

Ueda: We hope to continue conveying the joy of food to even more children through our nutrition-education activities. During the COVID-19 pandemic, for example, we have made our factory tours available online, enabling us to offer nutrition education to children unable to participate in on-site visits, such as those who live too far away or who cannot leave hospital. In this way, we will continue to devote ourselves to delivering nutrition education to as many children as we can, while staying mindful of social circumstances.

Horiike: At the Kewpie Mirai Tamago Foundation, we devote our efforts to bringing smiles to children's faces. From a long-term perspective, "continuity" is very important when conducting nutrition-education activities for children and creating places dedicated to food. We aim to continue with activities that contribute to children's happiness by taking advantage of the foundation's mechanisms.

As a Food Manufacturer, Kewpie Wants to Protect Children's Future through Food

— Finally, do you have a message for children and other companies or organizations?

Ueda: Eating a well-balanced nutritional diet is not only beneficial for physical health, but is also important for mental health. I would therefore like to tell children to take more interest in food. At Kewpie, we hope to continue our nutrition-education activities and help children, who represent our future, to become healthier.

Horiike: The foundation's activities include, for example, a seminar called "the summit on the creation of meaningful places for children." The seminar provides information to assist the activities of organizations creating places for children, introduces examples of their activities, and provides an opportunity for networking among the organizations. We have already held this seminar 11 times, and several more organizations are already looking forward to it. All these organizations are running wonderful activities, and we desire to continue to support them in the future.

— Thank you very much for such a wonderful message!

Kewpie seeks to share the joy and importance of food through its nutrition-education activities and the Kewpie Mirai Tamago Foundation's grant activities to improve the physical and mental health of children. These meaningful activities truly demonstrate how Kewpie has cherished the spirit of "contributing to society through food" ever since its founding.

Kewpie Corporation

Translation by Amitt

*This article was originally published on "The Tokyo Metropolitan Government Children's Smile Movement" (Feb 24, 2023).
*Japanese language site