(p. B10) The chip shortage is adding extra flavor to a 113-year-old Japanese seasoning company.
Japan’s Ajinomoto is renowned for inventing monosodium glutamate—the controversial flavor enhancer that adds umami to dishes. But it also makes a material that goes into the central processing units of computers around the world.
Ajinomoto manufactures a type of insulation material called Ajinomoto Buildup Film, or ABF. It was once made using byproducts from MSG manufacturing but isn’t any longer. The insulation material in turn goes into a semiconductor component called ABF substrate, which connects microchips to circuit boards.
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Ajinomoto expects ABF shipment volume to grow 67% over the next four fiscal years. And its customers downstream are expanding capacity to meet demand. Ajinomoto said growth this fiscal year may slow but it will pick up again once those expansion plans are realized.
Ajinomoto’s core seasoning business is a less tasty morsel, but the business has still weathered the pandemic well. Even though demand from restaurants dropped, increases in home cooking have helped profits since retail products sell at higher margins.
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(Note: the online version of the story has the date August 19, 2021, and has the title “Is MSG Bad for You? Not if It Comes With a Side of Microchips.”)