STORY

meiji THE Chocolate STORY

Japanese chocolate, as you've never seen it before.

We wanted to craft Japan's very own delicacy, making a chocolate that would surprise the world.
With that in mind, we set out to find high-quality cacao trees right at the source.
We brainstormed the best ways to unlock the full flavor and aroma of the cacao beans we collected there.
And then, at last, bearing the confidence of the word "THE," "meiji THE Chocolate" was born.
It has been many years since Meiji introduced chocolate to Japan.
And now, a new Japanese chocolate is surprising the world.

Obsessed with chocolate.

Meiji is proud of their specialty "meiji THE Chocolate."
The way its unparalleled flavor and aroma was created from scratch is thanks to the members of our company's development team.
We will introduce the secret birth of this chocolate, brought about by those members with the passion, the know-how, and the talent to make it possible.

Cacao Creator

Hiroyuki Utsunomiya

Meiji Co.,Ltd.

Joined the company in 1993.
He worked at the Osaka factory as well as the research team,
and is now a member of the Product Development team.
Besides researching the ingredients of chocolate, he also innovates.
He established a partnership between the cacao producers and the exporters.

I wanted to be involved in the entire chocolate making process
with a new perspective for cacao trees.

The attitude towards the "BEAN to BAR" process has been in Meiji's chocolate-making DNA since the beginning. The company, always aiming to evolve, undertook this endeavor approximately 10 years ago.
"We regularly bring the finished chocolate products back to the farmers for them to taste, as the end product of their labor. This way, they can work knowing the value and significance of what they do. And that importance gives them the motivation to pursue a higher-quality product."
Says Utsunomiya, the man who is known as the cacao creator representing Japan. Within a year's span, he traveled enough distance to travel around the world 3 times over in search of the very best cacao beans. He repeated this for many years, all the while searching for the highest-quality cacao.
As his vigorous work continued, Utsunomiya asked himself: "What would it take for Meiji, a confectionery company, to bring raw ingredients to a finished product? What can we do for Meiji to make an even more special chocolate?" This became his issue of focus.
And he came to realize that it was something more fundamental. In other words, to be fully involved with the cacao's place of origin. "We need to raise high-quality cacao beans, ferment, dry, and ship them to Japan. To be fully involved in this process, someone needed to stay. It was a big decision to make.“

The start of
"Meiji Cocoa Support: MCS."
We poured blood, sweat, and tears
into the cacao production process
with the local farmers, and
confronted each other head-on.

For Utsunomiya, the seeds of his "researcher" spirit sprouted in 2005. When we started direct dealings with the cacao farms, we also started "MCS" (Meiji Cocoa Support), which went on to be involved in many aid and support efforts.
"At the beginning, the reception we got from the locals was a 'What are you doing here?' look in everyone's eyes. This is because most cacao farms already had their own distribution channels. The first thing we did was engage in a lot of communication to build rapport. We started by letting them know that we were serious."
They continued to build relationships every day, even after gaining the cooperation of the farms.
"After staying for a month debating and brainstorming about how to make the ideal cacao beans, we flew back to Japan to get started on a prototype. We then brought it back to the local fields and got feedback to assess plans for improvement. After all the back-and-forth trips; I was abroad for 4 to 5 months out of the year. It was difficult, but the experience stacked up to eventually become THE Chocolate"

Chocolate created by defining its
best qualities - for the future - for
the world.

The result of Utsunomiya's inquisitive mind, "meiji THE Chocolate."
"Recently in Japan, we have begun to see new chocolates come on the market with distinct qualities. But even now it's still generally considered a snack for children. So we hope that 'THE Chocolate' we created could be a trigger for people to choose their chocolate based on the cacao bean, just like what you would do for coffee beans. Nothing would make me happier than if we could start that kind of 'chocolate culture' in Japan."

With this "dream" in mind, cacao creator Utsunomiya is flying all over the world even to this day.

Tetsuo Koyano

Meiji Co.,Ltd.
Corporate Executive Officer
Osaka Plant Manager

Joined the company in 1982.
In 1993, he earned a Doctorate in Agriculture from
Hiroshima University with a focus on chocolate oils and fats.
Thereafter, he became the Director of the Confectionery R&D Laboratories.
In 2015, he became a CEO and the manager for the Osaka factory.

Meiji's "BEAN to BAR" is the history of chocolate making.

This is a person who likes sweets more than anyone - Koyano's mild-mannered, friendly smile gives everyone this first impression.
The father of "meiji THE Chocolate" has a career history and a title that would impress just about anyone. After all, he is a CEO, an Osaka factory manager, and holds a Doctorate in Agriculture. "I am humbled to be involved in 'BEAN to BAR.' 90 years ago we started the development of handpicking, manufacturing and distributing cacao. And it's something we continue to evolve even now."

“Aim for the source!”
- the spirit that carried them to
Venezuela.

The chocolate-making history of Japan always enchanted Koyano. And since entering the company, he has devoted himself to the study of chocolate oils and fats. In time, he has come to lead new product development teams. "The starting point of chocolate is the cacao bean. I realized 20 years ago that it is important to be particular about its country of origin. It was then that we made 'Aim for the source!' our catch-phrase and began our first trek to Venezuela, cacao's country of origin." He was focused on the cacao's country of origin as the "upstream", or the "source" of all good chocolate. Koyano and his team set off with this in mind to each individual country and farm. This innovative spirit attracted much attention. They placed great importance on "fermentation," along with increased scrutiny towards cacao bean selections.

The meaning of no-compromise for
Meiji's specifications of its cacao beans.

"Starting with Criollo and Ferastero, there are 3 kinds of cacao beans. And it's the different fermentation procedures that determine their flavor, aroma, and quality. We repeated our tests many times over and shared our results with the farmers in order to create the finest quality ingredient. And at last, we created the cacao bean that met the 'Meiji specifications.' This is meiji THE Chocolate."
Koyano's continued pursuit for the perfect fermentation processes, exact techniques, and the cacao's country of origin helped him cement his footprint in history. However, he says that his "pursuit" continues.
"'THE Chocolate,' isn't in its final form. Until our customers say 'This is it!' and until we achieve the best product in the world, we intend to face cacao head-on and continue our research. That is meiji's pride. That is Japan's pride."

Chocolate Creator

Maiko Yamashita

Meiji Co.,Ltd.
Product Development Team

Joined the company in 2001.
A former member of the Confectionery R&D Laboratories.
She now undertakes everything from taste to package design
as a comprehensive director.

Create a scene, evoke a feeling
- The ideal design for such a chocolate.

The vertically slim packaging for "meiji THE Chocolate" has a visually stunning cacao bean theme. And when you open the wrapper, you'll find that the chocolate itself has a peculiar and unique pattern. Even before you put a piece in your mouth, you will feel a sense of delight.
"We thought out every decision from the cacao bean breed, to their country of origin, to the fermentation process involved in 'meiji THE Chocolate.' With that unparalleled originality in hand, we underwent countless repetitions of trial and error before deciding on the right design."
For Yamashita, in charge of design, the reasoning behind this passion comes from the fact that she aspires to be a "revolutionary." For meiji's chocolate and for herself.

"Genuine" chocolate, delivered
through a unified shape, and an
affordable price.

Now is the time that meiji must provide it to our Japanese customers.
We wanted to create a chocolate that adults can enjoy. Her journey as a "revolutionary" began when she tasted "meiji THE Chocolate" for the first time. Its taste, aroma, and a texture that melts in your mouth were perfect for achieving this goal. There is no other chocolate out there that is this genuine, and that's why there was a specific style that this chocolate called for.

"It is a widely accepted belief that bitter chocolate should feature a sharp, thin edge, while smooth milk chocolate is better enjoyed as a thicker and rounder piece. That was the standard that most agreed to, and they felt that this time should be no different. Varying flavors should have different shapes. But for "meiji THE Chocolate," shape and texture were a part of the experience. That's why I decided to create one shape to fit them all."

Furthermore, we placed a serious consideration on cost. We wanted to make an affordable product without compromising its quality.
Even for a revolutionary, this is an unchanging theme for meiji.

"Changing the shape depending on taste would have greatly increased the cost of manufacturing. This would result in higher prices, leading to less people being able to enjoy our product.
That is why we kept pursuing a way to focus our target, keeping costs down."

Keep changing, expand the possibilities.
We want to change the world through a chocolate that's full of variety.

And finally, what we completed was a "chocolate full of variety."

"The dome-zone gives a mild flavor, while the zigzag-zone strikes you with a radiant aroma... In one sheet of chocolate, the original design presents 4 zones - each a world of its own."

Yet, Yamashita's ambitions don't end there.
"Each customer has different preferences and seeks different qualities. Our job is to meet and grant those expectations one-by-one.
It takes baby steps, of course, and sometimes, we don't get the results that we want, but the experience we gained from 'meiji THE Chocolate' is priceless.
We want to continue delivering chocolate that captivates not only Japan, but also the world."

#thechocolate