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Developing Packaging Containers and Services in Line with Social Needs

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“Don’t leave past success behind, which would give us a key to future success.”

Roles of the technical development function in realizing our long-term management vision

In the Long-Term Management Vision 2050, we aim to become a corporate group that creates new value that changes the society beyond the boundaries of packaging manufacturing, focusing on the three areas of “food and health,” “comfortable living,” and “environment, resources and energy.” Toward this goal, the Corporate R&D and other R&D departments of group companies are leading the Group’s vigorous R&D activities based on their proprietary technologies in materials development, forming and processing, and engineering.

As the technical development function of the Group, we have identified the following three key issues to increase the effectiveness of our activities.

First, we should set themes for R&D that are consistent with the strategies for management and operations. To effectively use limited resources, the processes of theme selection, regular reviews, and judgment to go ahead are all important. We also intend to increase the weight of new areas in theme selection particularly at the Corporate R&D, thereby aiming to expand business fields.

Next, we need to push up the rate of commercialization of products and projects that have been developed by R&D activities. Not a few projects, especially those in new areas, get stuck before the practical application stage. We need to establish a framework to promote commercialization.

Finally, we should promote open Innovation. In order to speed up development, we should not rely too much on our own abilities but rather explore partnerships with external parties, including customers, suppliers, universities and venture businesses.

Good results need a plenty of preparation and time

Research and development, particularly for new business areas, takes a long time to bear fruit. Fortunately, we have now two projects that are at the final stage before commercialization. They are related to the energy and healthcare fields, in line with our long-term management vision, though I am not able to tell the details right now.

We will continue to take on new projects to seamlessly achieve success in the future.

“Device” to activate innovation

While research and development activities play a critical role in innovation, people involved in R&D tend to focus on technical aspects, paying more attention to higher quality and performance that would secure advantage over rivals in the market. For “responding to diversity,” however, we should return to manufacturing that incorporates the perspectives of human beings.

We should remember that, at the time of its founding, the Toyo Seikan Group did manufacturing with the aim of solving issues and problems in the society. Today, we find it more difficult to identify problems that are common to everyone. Even so, we can use an approach based on human perspectives to find unnoticed problems.

As a “device” to activate innovation with such approach, in 2019, we established the Innovation Incubation Office in Japan and the Future Design Lab (FDL) in Singapore. The new organizations are the two main engines of our innovation activities with different roles.

The Innovation Incubation Office aims to crate innovations with the inside-out approach, taking advantage of our strong R&D and production abilities and broad customer base. In short, its mission is to “leverage the Group’s strengths.” So, the office provides venues and opportunities for group members in all positions from across all departments and companies to share ideas and objectives.

The FDL, on the other hand, explores new business areas that are vital for creating new value and growing over the mid- to long-term. It is based in Singapore, where various information and startup businesses gather. Its mission is “to create strengths of the Group (for the future).” It promotes our participation in leading ecosystems to adopt new perspectives in our strategies.

With this device for innovation, I hope that we will become a corporate group that utilizes human perspectives, as well as business and technological viewpoints that we have already had, to identify social issues and find solutions with group-wide cooperation in R&D beyond boundaries of individual organizations in the Group.

OPEN UP! PROJECT, a group-wide innovation platform led by Innovation Incubation Office and FDL

The Innovation Incubation Office and the FDL communicate the details of their activities to the whole group and to the outside world through the OPEN UP! PROJECT.

As an initiative to leverage the Group’s strengths, we invested in a partnership with Oishii Kenko Inc., a food and healthcare technology startup that provides lifestyle solutions for people to enjoy eating for a lifetime. Through this partnership, we have redefined the role of packaging from wrapping food to serving as an important interface for all people, aiming to realize the “Internet of Packaging (IoP).”

As for “creating strengths of the Group,” we invested in a startup in Singapore, Shiok Meats. It is a food tech company that aims to solve the social issues in Asia, such as food and protein shortage, climate change and marine pollution, through the production of cell-cultured shrimp meat and other crustacean meat. As a food infrastructure company, we work together with Shiok Meats and other partners to bring affluent and sustainable dietary habits to people in Asia.

We also launched a joint program for creating new products and businesses with the Makuake Incubation Studio as an opportunity to put human perspectives into practice. In this program, we develop prototypes of new product and business ideas by reevaluating existing or unused technologies of the Group, and carry out crowdfunding campaigns to gain direct feedback from consumers. The first round of the program had twenty-one participants from across group companies, and the three projects that have passed the screening by executives are now under preparation for their crowdfunding projects scheduled next spring. The second round has also started its application process. I strongly hope that the new attempts will breathe new life into the Toyo Seikan Group, which has grown through B-to-B business.

The direction in which we should move forward

The Toyo Seikan Group has a reputation as a leading packaging company which has acquired trust from major food and beverage companies and household product makers with its ability of handling various materials and its technologies that allow for supplying high quality products at a lower cost.

However, our history shows us a different picture. The Group is, in fact, a company that has continued to make efforts to identify social issues that change with the times, find necessary partners, involve all relevant people from across group companies and support them, and create innovations—create and establish new cultures in the society—by effectively taking advantage of its technologies and resources. We should properly understand this point, and then we are able to choose the right direction.

Activities under the OPEN UP! PROJECT to solve social issues with our technologies

“Dream Card Project”to make your imaginary packaging come true!

Visitors to the Museum of Package Culture sketch packaging designs they dream of on a “Dream Card.” To make their dreams come true, the One Pack, a group-wide voluntary action platform, launched a project in which a total of four teams worked to realize those imaginary packages. Using their individual techniques, the participant teams have created the following five works: “Cans are your friends,” “Bottle with push button to open,” “Container that opens with your voice,” “Package Town,” and “Conditioning drink with flower.” These works were exhibited at the Museum from June to September 2021.

Prefabricated cardboard tent DAN DAN DOME to provide people with comfort in an emergencyor at outdoor leisure

The Toyo Seikan Group, which has been dedicating itself to “wrapping” and “packing” for over a century, has been seriously addressing the issue of “discarding” as well. No matter how beautiful the container is, how light and easy to carry it is, or how long it can preserve content, it is doomed to be thrown away in the end.

Nippon Tokan Packaging is taking on a challenging work on the packaging technology that focuses on discarding. Corrugated cardboard is approximately 95% recycled in Japan, and everyone can easily know how to discard it by looking at its conditions. Using such material, the company has developed the DAN DAN DOME to comfortably “wrap” people, in collaboration with polar architect Yusuke Murakami.

Invest in Shiok Meats, developing cell-cultured shrimp and crustacean meat in Singapore

Shiok Meats, a food tech startup founded in 2018, has a proprietary technology to isolate stem cells from shrimps and other crustaceans. By producing cell-based seafood with this technology, it aims to help solve social issues in Asia, such as food and protein shortage, climate change, and marine pollution.

Shiok Meats is our first investment under the “OPEN UP! PROJECT,” which has been promoting the investment in startups that work on solutions to social issues since 2020.

Photo credit : Shiok Meats

Members of Shiok Meats, including Dr. Sandhya Sriram, CEO, and Dr. Ka Yi Ling, CTO (in center of front row)
Steamed dumpling using cell-based shrimp mince produced by Shiok Meats

Partnership with Oishii Kenko Inc. toward the realization of food barrier free by building a food and health data platform

Oishii Kenko, Inc., created in 2016 by a spin-off of the healthcare division of Cookpad Inc., provides recipe sharing and development services supervised by nationally certified nutritionists to support disease prevention and management as well as dieting. In March 2021, we entered into a capital and business alliance with the company to build a data platform for food and health and create a barrier-free food environment. We have developed “Salt-off Cup” an innovative package for tofu, and plan to create a variety of products and services going forward.

Learn more about these projects and other initiatives through the following link to the special website for OPEN UP! PROJECT.

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