Aiming to be a “game-changer” in India’s egg sector, Japan’s No 1 and world’s fifth largest egg producer Ise Foods Inc has begun producing and selling its quality eggs — Ise Premium — by forming a joint venture, Ise-Suzuki Egg India Pvt Ltd. 

The company, which launched its operation on June 27 this year, has brought the “Ise Integration System” to produce Japanese standard hygienic and nutritious eggs indigenously in Punjab for Indian people.

‘Need for quality eggs’

The Japanese firm plans to expand its operations in India by introducing value-added nutritious eggs through its own cold chain in the first phase. “Punjab is one of the big consumption areas for high-quality eggs. So, we started from North India, but our next plan is probably to expand to West India,” said Mitsuko Takahashi, Chief Operation Officer (COO), Ise-Suzuki Egg India Pvt Ltd.

Ise Foods is particularly looking at Mumbai and Maharashtra in the West as “customers there understand the need for quality eggs”. Then, the Japanese firm will look at the South, East and North-East. 

“We are looking at full region-wise expansion. We started with OEM because it is asset-light and easier to start. But we are looking at the other business models such as franchise,” she said. 

Ise Foods, which has got a foothold in China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, Myanmar, Thailand and Singapore, has always considered India as its favourite in view of its large population, a majority of who are young. “We (Japanese) are a tenth of the Indian population but we eat 330 eggs per year, while Indian people eat 60-70 eggs a year. It means India has a very big potential,” Takahashi told BusinessLine.

Special feed

The Japanese firm, which has been trying to enter India since 2017, plans to launch “egg-related process food,” said the company’s COO said.

Ise Foods is offering feed formula, particularly to the OEM in India. “We have given the feed to our OEM partner specifically because we want them to manufacture the kind of egg we are known for,” she said. 

Mitsuko Takahashi, Chief Operation Officer, Ise-Suzuki Egg India Pvt Ltd.

Mitsuko Takahashi, Chief Operation Officer, Ise-Suzuki Egg India Pvt Ltd.

The Japanese company, which has been in the business of producing hygienic eggs since the 1960s and has a 60 per cent market share on the US East Coast, is bringing its know-how and technologies to India. Currently, it is studying raw eggs, but it will be going into processed food as well, Takahashi said. 

Developing cold chain

One of the important offerings of the Japanese company would be to develop a cold chain for eggs. This will help eggs to be free from salmonella bacteria and make them safe for consumption, besides preventing their wastage.

“We have the technology for the entire poultry ecosystem from the hatching of chicks to the delivery of eggs. But in India, we are not going to be involved in hatching or raising layer birds, which will be done by the OEM. But we are providing a formulae feed to the partner,” she said.

The Indian OEM grades and packs eggs based on the Japanese standard hygienic system. “Every employee has to sterilise and put on clean, sterilised uniforms, gloves and hygienic boots. The eggs are machine washed, sanitised and then packed. It is then kept in a temperature-controlled warehouse and transported in reefer trucks. The entire cold chain for eggs is something that is developed in Japan. We are trying to reproduce it in India,” the Ise Foods COO said. 

Feed features

The special feed the Japanese firm offers can enhance some important nutritions such as vitamin D.  In addition, the nutrition is enhanced to meet the needs of children and pregnant women or even senior citizens. 

“Our eggs’ speciality is the yolk colour, which is different from Indian eggs. Our eggs are very rich in a darker colour which is made possible by our special feed. As a result, the eggs are rich in taste and in mouth-washing colour,” she said.  

New eggs are infected with salmonella as they are laid on manure and in unhygienic surroundings. Therefore, it has to be washed before being used. “In Japan, people eat raw eggs as we provide hygienic eggs and are salmonella-free,” Takahashi said.

Some people don’t want to keep eggs in the refrigerator as they are dirty and contaminated. “But our eggs are sanitised with UV rays. So it’s okay to keep them with other foods,” she said, adding that Ise eggs have a shelf life of three weeks. “But the condition is that they should be kept in a cold chain with the temperature at 15 degrees,” the Ise  Foods COO said.  

Organic fertilizer

The Japanese firm wanted to start with production first and be in India for a long haul. “There are other elements such as hatching for which we have the know-how but we may look at entering later. We prepare compost from manures on the poultry farm and dry it to produce organic fertiliser,” Takahashi said. 

Ise Foods would want to introduce it to India.  “I think organic fertilizer has good demand in India. Farmers in India use wet manure. It is ok as it contains a lot of nutrition, but its smell is something people cannot tolerate. It is one reason why our organic fertiliser is well received in Japan. It makes a perfect ecological cycle in the agriculture sector,” she said.  

Ise Foods sends its specialists to India in educating its partners and guide them besides auditing their work to make sure the technology is properly “reproduced” in India. However, the Japanese firm feels India’s application process is a “little bit complicated” and the officials are not sure who to talk to on issues such as goods and sales tax (GST). 

Deal with Suzuki, Denso

Ise eggs have been received well by Japanese expatriates in India.  The Japanese company has made Suzuki its joint venture affiliate and has begun testing deliveries of fresh eggs using digitalised refrigerated eggs in partnership with Denso International India. Ise will use Suzuki’s super carry cargo vehicles, run on compressed natural gas, which will be equipped with Denso reefer units. 

ISe-Suzuki Egg India and Denso will analyze operational data captured during delivery, identify issues, and improve the optimized supply chain to realize safe and secure food delivery, the Japanese firm’s COO said, adding that the pilot project was being carried out in Gurugram, Haryana and Chandigarh cities. 

“Denso is specifically trying to develop reefer trucks specifically for rural areas to promote cold chains. They are running six demonstration vehicles to capture the operational data which will help in even identifying the optimal route to cut logistics costs,” Takahashi said.