The first brand of Bainongshe International Co., Ltd., Hua Yujie, opened in Kwai Chung. In the blink of an eye, 12 years later, Hong Kong people's food culture has added a "regular customer", and there is another choice for lunch. Hua Yujie has become a well-known brand in Hong Kong, with more than 120 branches. This "Hong Kong-made Japanese company" plans to break out of Hong Kong with the new brand OMUSUBI in the next step, with the goal of opening 10,000 stores in the second decade .
Founder and Chairman Soo Nishida revealed that he started his own business at the age of 19. In order to find out what kind of business he wanted to start, he wrote 400 letters to different entrepreneurs asking for advice on how to start a business, and finally got 40 replies. In the replies from these 40 people, Xi Tian found that not all successful entrepreneurs are geniuses, but what they have in common is that they all have a vision and mission in mind.
Want to revitalize agriculture all because of one person?
Some of the respondents suggested that he develop into agriculture, and Nishida Zongsheng’s grandfather was an agricultural producer, but he had to give up because of the difficult livelihood. “First of all, it’s because the people closest to me have lost their livelihood because of the failure of agriculture. I feel very sorry. I hope I can help. This is one of my thoughts.”
Another main reason for choosing a path related to agriculture is that agricultural production is an extremely important industry in Japan, and if it helps agriculture, it will also greatly help the Japanese economy. Today, Bainongsha manufactures tens of thousands of knots every day in Hong Kong, hoping to support Japanese farmers while expanding its business.
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Learn from the supermarket
Nishida Zongsheng initially wanted to do Japanese rice export business, so he came to Hong Kong, the largest exporter of Japanese rice, for an inspection. One of the activities was to visit department stores and supermarkets to learn about the sales of Japanese rice and strike up a conversation with customers. In the process of talking, I found that Hong Kong people are not very good at cooking Japanese rice, and generally “cook it directly in the rice cooker”.
In fact, there is a little secret to cooking Japanese rice until the grains are plump. It is to pre-soak the rice for at least 30 minutes to 1 hour, so that the rice absorbs water before cooking, and the rice cooker, water volume and time will make the effect effective. difference. Nishida Zongsheng then thought, why not cook the rice directly so that Hong Kong people can taste the most delicious Japanese rice? So I decided to start a rice ball business.
Nishida Zongsheng also said that Japanese rice has different tastes, and the natural sweetness and rice fragrance are different. “But if you make sushi, you will add vinegar to cover the rice fragrance. Yujie will use this Japanese rice (characteristics) to play the best.”
For Hong Kong people, Japanese rice and sushi are no strangers. When you look at the actual figures, you may also be shocked. Hong Kong is the largest exporter of Japanese rice, accounting for one-third of the total export volume in 2021 and importing more than 7,000 tons. The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries pointed out that the main demand for Japanese rice in Hong Kong is rice balls and sushi, as well as the supply of Japanese restaurants, and it is increasing year by year; the province also estimates that in 2021, the consumption of Japanese domestic rice in Hong Kong sushi restaurants will reach 2,000 tons per year , and the consumption scale of Japanese rice ball restaurants has reached 1,000 tons per year.
Calculated as a single brand in Hong Kong, Hana Miyu is definitely one of the most used brands of Japanese rice. When Zongsheng Nishida came to Hong Kong, there were no onigiri stores in Hong Kong, and at most there were limited supplies in supermarkets and convenience stores. Delicious and authentic Yukatsu, in the past probably only went to Japan to taste it. Nishida Muneo pointed out that the Japanese eat onigiri every day, and the “deliciousness” considered by Hong Kong people is a bit different from that of the Japanese. The mouthful of rice has high requirements on the taste.”
Six years of eclipse until Hong Kong people accept rice balls?
After Nishida Zongsheng established the first Yujie workshop in the Fo Tan Industrial Building, he opened the first branch in Kwai Chung in 2010. However, it has not been all smooth sailing since its opening. I still remember that the Kwai Chung store only sold 90 knots on the first day of opening. It took six years for Huayu to turn losses into profits, but Nishida Zongsheng was confident that his philosophy was correct and never thought of giving up.
Nishida Zongsheng’s persistence is also correct. Hong Kong people with a fast-paced life and a soft spot for Japanese food, Japanese-style onigiri soon became a part of their daily diet. Whether you are an OL who wants to have a simple meal, a college student who is catching up with class, a mother who struggles to prepare breakfast for her children every day, or a Hong Kong person who “passes by and is hungry”, rice balls are a solution.
Although there is no doubt that Hong Kong people love Japanese rice and imports continue to grow, it is indeed not easy to revitalize Japanese agriculture. Japan has many mountains and few lands, and the cultivated land is scattered. Most of the rice fields are small-scale operations, and Japanese rice is produced only once a year. The cost is much higher than other production areas. Naturally, it is not easy to sell it as a staple food. Japan’s local consumption of rice is on a downward trend, and currently exported rice only accounts for 0.5% of the total production, so there is a lot of room for improvement.
Bainong Cooperative produces a huge amount of yujie every day, and a stable and high-quality rice supply is indispensable. In the 15 years since he started his business, Nishida Muneo has traveled all over Japan in search of “beautiful rice”. He has visited more than 50 rice farmers, communicated with producers in person, and tried their rice. With the expansion of business, the demand for rice is huge, so the source of rice has to be changed from time to time.
From Hua Yujie to OMUSUBI
While Huayujie has set a milestone of 100 branches, the journey of the new brand OMUSUBI has just begun. OMUSUBI’s four branches are currently located in the busiest area of Hong Kong Island (more people know that it is opposite to the supermarket in Central ifc), which can be called the “Deluxe version” of the Omusubi brand of Bainongsha. The stores are simple and Japanese Wind, only white, red, black, wood, brass and other shades.
Compared with the A-grade rice used by Hua Yujie, the rice used by OMUSUBI can be described as higher-end. Japanese rice farmers generally have rice for their own use with less pesticides and more painstaking efforts. After Nishida Zongsheng discovered the “secret” of farmers, after 5 years of consultation and coordination, OMUSUBI now directly cooperates with the supply of farmland, which is distributed in many parts of Japan. Several regions, including Hokkaido, Yamagata, Niigata, Nagano, Miyagi, etc., produce this exclusive rice with less pesticides and more delicious taste.
Nishida Zongsheng revealed that the next step is to break out of Hong Kong with the OMUSUBI brand and plan to open the first branch in Shenzhen. In the long run, the Greater Bay Area, Mainland China and the United States all have potential markets. Looking back at the beginning of the business, Nishida Zongsheng hoped to open 100 stores in Hong Kong. Now that the goal has been achieved, he hopes to open 10,000 stores in various places by 2030.