[From November Issue 2013]
“University Brand Foods” that utilize ingredients developed in university research labs are attracting attention. The processes and developments that lead to the creation of these foods vary, from products with a modern take on famous local produce, to products that are the result of research. They’ve been growing in popularity to such an extent that department stores in Tokyo regularly host food fairs called “Universities are Delicious!!” bringing together products from over 30 universities.
At Kamaishi Institute, Kitasato University Research Organization for Infection Control Sciences (Ofunato City, Iwate Prefecture) beer is made using yeast collected from a cherry tree. The research facility stores Ishiwarizakura yeast extracted from a cherry tree. Located in Morioka City, Iwate Prefecture, Ishiwarizakura is a 360 year old cherry tree that grew from a fissure in a rock. When the tree blooms, between mid-April to early May, many people from both within and without the city come to view its blossoms.
The research institute was damaged in the Great East Japan Earthquake, and the building was partially destroyed, but miraculously the Ishiwarizakura yeast remained intact. Fukukou Beer had been successfully brewed from this yeast. Though the beer factory collapsed in the earthquake, it was reconstructed in just two months. They were somehow able to start brewing again, but experienced repeated failures in the beer making process.
“In the space of a year, local sake brewers joined forces with the university to create a commercial product. It is imbued with our hopes for renewal,” says INOMATA Yukie, who developed the product. The beer has gained a reputation for its delicious taste and characteristic refreshing fragrance. A portion of the sales profits is contributed to the revitalization of the Sanriku area.
In addition, Tokyo Kasei University began work on the “Shirafuji Project” seven years ago in order to bring back the so called, legendary Shirafuji sake rice. Professor NAKAMURA Nobuya dreamed up the idea in order to let his students try their hand at rice cultivation.
Students cultivated rice in Niigata Prefecture, an area renowned nationwide for producing delicious rice. Before long, hoping to give more people a taste of Shirafuji rice, some students put forward the idea that they sell confectionary made from this rice instead of from wheat flour. From then on, they began cooperating with Gateau Senka, confectionary shops to develop their own confectionary.
Trial versions, particularly in the form of cakes, were made one after the other to try to make it look delicious. One of the students involved in the developmental stage, SEO Moemi says, “We have been participating in the ‘Daigaku-ha Oishii!!’ fair for three years. Recently, so many people have come to buy it for children with wheat allergies. As it’s rather difficult to get hold of deserts that do not contain wheat, there’s been a call for us to put it on sale more regularly.”
Having gained a reputation for good quality and high safety standards, university brand foods will surely become more popular from now on.
Text: TSUCHIYA Emi