Interview with Athos Foods Co.
Buddy FOOD is manufactured by Athos Foods, a food production company in Satsumasendai City, Kagoshima Prefecture. We interviewed Mr. Odawara, President, Mr. Kimura, Executive Officer, and Mr. Niki, General Manager of the President's Office.
Q. Could you tell us about Athos Foods' business?
A We manufacture and sell a wide range of food products, including meat and fish products, vegetables, ice cream, and confectionery. In addition to our own products, we also accept OEM orders from various companies in the prefecture. Our main customers are supermarkets and restaurants, but we also sell our own signature product, "chinko dango," as well as 20-30 other products made on an OEM basis, some of which can be found in the souvenir section at Kagoshima Airport!
Mr. Kimura, Executive Officer of Athos Foods, and Mr. Niki, General Manager of the President's Office.
Q: There are few companies in Kagoshima Prefecture that are involved in OEM of a wide range of food products.
A We have long felt that despite the abundance of wonderful agricultural products in Kagoshima Prefecture, it has not been possible to engage in agriculture in an economically stable manner. We would like to add value to these crops by processing them and selling them, thereby boosting Kagoshima's agricultural industry. I hope to play a role as a hub of agriculture in Kagoshima.
Q: You introduced many suppliers to Buddy Food. Please tell us about your relationship with your suppliers.
A In order to manufacture a wide range of products, we need a lot of raw materials. Therefore, it is essential to build a continuous relationship with our suppliers, not on a spot basis. I believe that this is the only way to take good care of our suppliers. We purchase as much as possible in a planned manner, purchase more when farmers are in need, and sometimes, on the contrary, ask them to sell a little too much. We have a long relationship with them, helping each other out. We have even had a case where a farmer saw on Facebook that he was forced to sell vegetables at a price that was not profitable at all, so we DMed him and started a business relationship with him.
Q. What is your approach to production?
A We want to be a partner in realizing the wishes of the company that has the project. It is not about the size of the company, but about what they are trying to achieve, and we believe that realizing these ideas together with them is the raison d'être of Athos Foods. We have been manufacturing mainly foods for people, so this project for dogs was a new initiative for us, but when we saw Buddycare's desire to "give dogs the same food happiness as their families," we thought we would like to work together with them.
Q Please tell us about your approach to hygiene.
A. We are a food manufacturing company, so we have to follow the rules as a prerequisite, and we also comply with HACCP. We tell our employees, no matter where they are working, to keep in mind the faces of the people who will eat the food in the end. For example, if you are in charge of the sweet potato peeling process, you might ask, "How would the consumers feel if the peels were left on the product? This is a question that we ask our workers. The same goes for labeling: "How would they feel if the label was on an angle? It is the same with the labeling. By imagining the faces of the consumers, I am able to work while realizing that each task leads to the joy of eating.
Production scene at Athos Foods
Q Please tell us what Athos Foods hopes to achieve in the future.
A Rather than creating foods that any person will like, we want to create foods that those who like them will say, "I'm a big fan! I would like to produce foods that will make people say, "I'm a big fan! I also want to continue to be involved in making people more aware of the charms of Kagoshima. For example, there is an island surrounded by beautiful sea called Koshikijima in Kagoshima, and we made "Shimatabi Gelato" with a customer who wanted to make a product using ingredients from there (it is also available at Koshiki Terrace in Nakakoshiki port! There are many beautiful islands in Kagoshima, and we would like to develop the Island Trip series using ingredients that are unique to each island. And we would be happy if we could be a catalyst for people to get to know Kagoshima. As part of our efforts to enliven our hometown and help people get to know Kagoshima, we are also sponsoring the women's soccer team REINA SENDAI. One of our players works for us as well!
(Left) "Island Trip Gelato" above
(Right) Women's soccer team sponsored by Athos Foods. The player works for the company.
Q. Do you have a message for those who purchase Buddy FOOD?
A. I believe there are two kinds of "joy of food. One is to eat and think it tastes good. The second is to be happy when you feed it to others and see them enjoy it. I think that the pleasure of seeing others enjoy the food may be greater than my own "deliciousness. I have never lived with a dog myself, but I used to look forward to visiting my grandfather's dog and feeding it. It was a joy to see his dog happy while eating his food. I would be very happy if I could bring such joy to dog owners through Buddy FOOD.
Also, because dogs cannot communicate with us verbally, it is important for us to understand feedback from dog owners and Buddycare even more deeply, so we want to create food products that are constantly evolving.
President Odawara of Athos Foods (center) with Buddycare's Harada and Nagai
Athos Foods Executive Officer Kimura with President Niki (2nd and 3rd from right) and Buddycare Harada and Nagai