As of April 1, Mikio Sakai will be the new president and CEO of Fuji Oil Group — and he is planning to create a new focus on the company's plant-based ingredients.

Sakai currently is senior executive officer, chairman of Blommer Chocolate Co. and president of Fuji Specialty Inc.

In early February, the company announced that then-president and CEO Hiroshi Shimizu would be retiring from the Board of Directors after an upcoming June 2021 meeting and that he would take on a new role as director and senior advisor.

Sakai said the focus on plant-based ingredients was inspired in part by a desire to implement ESG Management, which stands for Environmental, Social, and Governance Criteria. According to Investopedia:

  • Environmental criteria consider how a company performs as a steward of nature.
  • Social criteria examine how it manages relationships with employees, suppliers, customers and the communities where it operates.
  • Governance deals with a company’s leadership, executive pay, audits, internal controls and shareholder rights.

"Our company was founded to solve the problems of the planet and its people, such as global warming and environmental destruction, which form the backbone of ESG management these days,” Sakai said. “I want to create a business that promotes ESG management in the processed food business focusing on plant-based protein or vegetable oils and fats as the main raw material and contribute to the Protein Transition using the technologies we have developed during our long history focusing on plant protein functionality and taste.”

He’s specifically focused on PBF (plant-based food) such as soy meat. While soybeans have long been popular in Japan, China and Southeast Asia, other regions such as Europe and the United States don’t consume them as much. So, he wants the company to explore other plant-based materials within PBF.

“Another potential area is to support the many startups that are new to meat analogs by providing ingredients with a “plus alpha” so they can differentiate themselves from their competition,” Sakai said. “We have various technologies available on an industrial scale. These are major topics and we aim to solve them through R&D and commercialization."

Fuji Oil has four business areas including:

  1. Vegetable Oils and Fats
  2. Industrial Chocolate
  3. Emulsified and Fermented Ingredients
  4. Soy-based Ingredients

Sakai said that as customers' health consciousness increases each year, they plan to make use of synergies between the four businesses. For example, a chocolate containing protein could combine elements of the industrial chocolate and the soy-based ingredients business.

Fuji Oil Group is overseen by Fuji Oil Holdings, which is mainly engaged in three segments:

  1. The Oil and Fat segment provides purified oil based on coconut oil, palm oil and palm kernel oil, as well as oil and fat for chocolate.
  2. The Confectionery and Baking segment provides chocolates, cream, shortening and processed dairy products.
  3. The Soy Protein segment provides soy protein products, processed soy protein food products and soymilk.

In late 2018, Fuji Oil Holdings acquired The Blommer Chocolate Co., which was the largest chocolate ingredient supplier in North America.

Fuji Oil Holdings is headquartered in Japan and active in 14 countries through 32 main companies. It generated sales of 414.7 billion yen in 2019.