Kikkoman first sprinkled on US soil in 1957 in San Francisco. It was the first Asian company to successfully introduce a wholly foreign product into the American market. Manufacturing in the States didn’t begin until 1972 when it opened a brewing plant in Wisconsin (America's wheat and soybean country). As Asian cuisine made its way into the hearts and stomachs of Stateside citizens, Kikkoman opened a second plant in California to satiate growing demand. Today, Kikkoman claims that international sales ring in at over 2 billion dollars. We sampled Kikkoman.com to see how the site serves its customers.
Unfortunately, at first click and in further depth, the World of Kikkoman (the global portal) doesn’t hold much. From a branding perspective, there are a myriad of reasons why this page should be revamped. The fonts are inconsistent, there is no real cohesive sense of design and the layout is haphazard.
The US Kikkoman site raises the bar slightly from eyesore to informative, but a deep dig into content, finds the static pages with placeholders to be rather archaic. The site actually contains three sections, each targeted to a specific segment of Kikkoman’s core consumer; foodservice professionals, manufacturers and home cooks.
The decision to segment the site and appeal to the different tastes of core segments provides Kikkoman-US.com with a great strength. Instead of repurposing the same content, each segment actually provides in-depth content relevant to each type of user, underlining the brand’s position as leaders in the category.
Products are also explained and depicted in the purchase choices of each target consumer. For example, foodservice professionals view gallon containers, while home cooks see individual bottles; each product description is tweaked accordingly as well.
The history of soy sauce, the tales of how it is naturally brewed, and the description of “umami” are lovingly detailed in each section, conveying a great cultural pride that is inherent to the Kikkoman brand.
Kikkoman also achieves the right flavor by aligning with celebrity chefs, like Michael Bloise. The brand has the chefs concoct an original recipe with the product (Bloise’s is soy sauce sorbet), lending a sense of credibility to a product that is widely distributed and affordable.
It’s a given that a food product would have a comprehensive recipe section, and Kikkoman is no exception. Home Cooks takes this a step further by promoting new products and seasonal promotions like Kikkoman Teriyaki Tailgates (where the brand invades ballparks to introduce new product line to munchy masses).
It’s unfortunate that this attention to detail isn’t executed as well on a visual level. Images are average, navigation is standard, there are no bells and whistles; the site doesn’t seduce visually as well as it does verbally.
Despite the lack of presentation, the content is extensive and relevant enough to reinforce Kikkoman’s position as the category leader. However to truly satisfy, its “umami” offering should be irresistible.