[From Decemberber Issue 2014]
WASARA Co., Ltd.
With the goal of creating high quality plates and utensils that are disposable yet stylish, WASARA was created of in 2008. Because of their unique high quality designs and environmental friendliness, WASARA plates were used at an opening event of the G8 Hokkaido Toyako Summit as soon as they were launched on the market. Since then, the plates have been prized for their ability to make any dish look appealing, and they are now even used at Michelin-starred restaurants.
The most important feature is the way the range of 18 items – which includes plates, cups and utensils – goes so well together. Speaking about various inquiries the company receives from its customers, SHIMA Shinako, brand manager of WASARA Co., Ltd., says, “I realized the hospitality industries had been looking for disposable tableware that compliments the cuisine served on it.”
Designs are simple but, through attention to detail, they show off food to its best advantage. Pulp is pressed into a mold that has a ridged surface giving the finished product the feel of washi (Japanese craft paper), and the plates are cut in such a way that the edge is beautifully finished. Fulfilling such specifications requires a high level of craftsmanship. To develop these unique paper plates, technical help was brought in from sources that usually have no connection to the manufacturing of paper plates; such as from factories that usually produce molds for screws used in cars.
WASARA’s parent company, Itokei Co., Ltd., manufactures and sells containers for desserts and ice cream. In the days preceding Itokei’s 100th anniversary, management thought about what direction the company should take in the future and decided to create high-value-added products that could be passed down to future generations.
Plates and bowls are made of bagasse – fibrous matter that remains after the juice is squeezed out of sugarcane – and also of bamboo, which is known for being a fast-growing plant. WASARA’s utensils are made of bamboo. So that they can be returned to the earth after use, they aren’t laminated. If you put them into a compost container, they can be reused as compost.
Compared with Japan, there are more opportunities abroad for catering and parties, so in the first four years subsequent to the launch of WASARA’s products, exports exceeded domestic sales. These products are currently on sale at nearly 100 shops overseas, mostly in the West. Shima, however, analyzes the situation with a level head, saying, “There are challenges to overcome, such as the issue of distribution costs due to rising oil prices.”
A set of six medium-sized plates costs 540 yen (including tax), not exactly reasonable compared with regular paper plates. But sales in Japan have been increasing, too. According to Shima, one of the reasons they are selling well is that more and more people actually use them and appreciate their value. The product’s strongest selling point is its eco-friendliness and its additional value of being a disposable item that incorporates a design that makes dishes look delicious.
Text: ICHIMURA Masayo