Megumi Natto, established in 2006 in Northern California’s Sonoma County, became the first company to produce and distribute fresh natto in the U.S., according to Alan Maeda, the company’s CEO.
Natto, fermented soybeans, is a nutritious traditional Japanese food.
“My big mission is to deliver the real Japanese food and the profound wisdom,” said Minami Satoh, Megumi Natto’s founder.
The company uses a natto production process from Japan, where Satoh learned natto making at a small local business.
By producing fresh natto locally in the U.S., Megumi Natto has been able to eliminate the distinct smell of natto and to make the taste and texture more mild than the frozen natto that’s imported from Japan.
Looking back on his 10 years of managing the company, Satoh remembers his struggles and a time when he considered quitting the business. The Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011 raised the need for strict tests for imported food products from Japan, including natto seasoning and mustard.
“We were forced to go out of production and the sales decreased less than half,” Satoh said.
While Japanese people usually put natto on top of rice and mix it with sweet shoyu seasoning and mustard, Megumi Natto does not provide any seasoning, allowing its diverse consumers, both Japanese and American, to enjoy eating natto in their own way using their own recipes.
Natto is no longer limited to simply being eaten with rice, as many American consumers prefer eating natto with bread, sandwiches, hamburgers and salad.
“What we are trying to do really is to retain the traditional Japanese quality, but yet push that out into the U.S. market,” Maeda said.
Megumi Natto has grown into a nationwide natto company that has contributed to the increased distribution of fresh handmade natto throughout the U.S.
Natto now is recognized as a healthy food and is known for its high protein, vitamin K2, vitamin B2 and nattokinase, which is an important enzyme for the digestive system.
“Many people are starting to understand the virtues of natto. Natto is considered to be an upcoming superfood,” Maeda said. “(The) next goal for us is to actually expand the audience into more of a mainstream U.S. market.”