360° business innovation | Yoshiki Sato - MITSUI & CO., LTD.

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Yoshinori Sato

General Manager, Salt Dept.,
Chlor-Alkali Dept., Basic Chemicals Business Unit

Mitsui has two salt fields in Australia: Shark Bay and Onslow, both of which are wholly owned subsidiaries. As the parent company, our role is to provide general management support and to expand salt sales to Japan and Asia, our key markets. Shark Bay salt is used primarily for food seasoning, whereas Onslow’s output is more for industrial use.

Shark Bay is part of the Shark Bay World Heritage Area, a wonderfully pristine natural environment. It has abundant sunshine, a gentle wind and very little rain year round—the perfect environment for producing salt, in other words!

Shark Bay’s unique location is a big positive when it comes to differentiating the brand and building brand value. We’re leveraging the Shark Bay name to expand our share in the Asian and Japanese food markets with a high-quality, high-added-value image.

I visited Shark Bay soon after my appointment as general manager of the Salt Department. The passion and the pride that everyone, from the COO on down, felt in producing a truly high quality product were obvious. It was very motivating. Here in Japan, I hope we can respond to that passion by developing a robust and sustainable sales model for the long term.

I was transferred from the Strategic Business Development Department of the Basic Chemicals Business Unit to the Salt Department in April 2015. I’ve spent a lot of my career in sales and one thing I really enjoy about my new job is the opportunity to travel around Japan, meeting food manufacturers and learning about what they do. Our ships actually make deliveries directly to nine ports around the country. The salt business here was a government monopoly until 1997 and salt is a key ingredient in traditional Japanese foods from wakame seaweed to umeboshi salt plums. The business has a history and character all its own. It’s very interesting.

One geographical area that’s looking promising is China. China’s salt market is said to be liberalized in future. Obviously that represents a great opportunity: in population terms, China is ten times the size of Japan, and with the rise of the middle class, you are getting strong demand for safe and high-quality food, including salt. Shark Bay salt is perfectly positioned to meet that need.

Salt is used in the manufacture of all sorts of products—paper, detergent, glass, synthetic fibers, artificial leather, building materials. In fact, 70% of it is used for industrial purposes versus just 30% for food. Industrial users thus represent our most important market. I’m hoping we can deepen our engagement with these customers, not only by selling them salt, but by leveraging the broad expertise of the Chlor-Alkali Div. across four different fields to help them formulate solutions for a range of issues.

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