San-J Tamari brings a unique twist in the U.S. to Asian sauces. Tamari, a byproduct of miso paste production, is a smaller subcategory of soy sauce. Tamari is made strictly from soybeans rather than the 1:1 ratio of soy and wheat used in soy sauce. And San-J’s president, Takashi Sato, envisions growing the Virginia-based brand to support the larger fermentation industry.
Sato is the 8th generation of the Sato family to lead San-J production. The Sato family founded San-Jirushi, San-J’s parent company, in Mie, Japan in 1804. They officially opened facilities in the U.S. in 1974, America’s first tamari brewing facility. Launching the brand in the U.S. in the ‘70s was an ideal time as the counterculture movement of the ‘60s was winding down. San-J was able to stand apart from major soy sauce brands because they don’t use coloring in their sauces. Chefs say the gluten-free, kosher, non-GMO standards of San-J tamari product is a big draw when looking for sauces. It’s flavor is also more intense.
“When we wanted to differentiate ourselves from Kikkoman, we noticed and focused on hippie culture in the United States since it was still active when we opened our office in 1978,” Sato says. “Taking the concept of hippie, we wanted to exclude all the additives and to make it natural.”
Sato has a bigger vision for San-J, hoping to help grow and support the fermentation industry. He wants to create a larger market through education. Sato spoke at TFA’s conference, FERMENTATION 2022. He also hosted a series of ticketed workshops last fall that included factory tours, fermented food tasting DIY miso kits and one-on-one “genius bar” sessions. He plans to host a second symposium later this year.
He’s also partnered with other fermentation scientists and educators to promote “fermentourisum” through the think tank and online platform Hakko Hub. Hakko means fermentation in Japanese.
“The demand for fermented foods isn’t strong enough in the U.S.,” Sato says. “In order to create demand, it’s important to create/stimulate interest in fermented foods.”
Read more (Richmond Magazine)