A specialist Welsh food company is set to expand its operations nationally and internationally following a take-over by one of Japan’s leading soy sauce producers.

The Speciality Sauce Company, established just four years ago in Blaenau Gwent, has been acquired by Shoda Shoyu – one of Japan’s fourth major manufacturers of naturally brewed soy sauce and the world’s leading supplier of catering sachets containing individual portions of sauces.

The acquisition has already resulted in a major investment in new equipment at the Welsh plant and the introduction of new technologies and expertise.

It has seen the workforce almost double from 14 to 30, the management team strengthened and the company is now poised to expand and capture new markets in the UK and Europe.

Shoda has three soy sauce plants, one of which is the most modern in Japan and six sachet operations in Japan. It is also one of the most prestigious companies in Japan, founded in 1873.

Joe Phillips, President of the Speciality Sauce Co and one of the founders, said the investment opened up exciting new business opportunities.

“Shoda Shoyu is a leader in its field, an expert in fermentation technology for soy sauce and equipment and is constantly introducing new technologies to meet changing tastes and dietary requirements.

“Their strategy is to expand the Welsh operation internationally and gain new markets. We are now building the right platform to expand the business.”

Shoda is the world market leader in the production of sachets – producing six million a day while the UK currently produces about 2.5million daily. It is this market that the Speciality Sauce Co will be targeting initially.

New production lines, containing the most sophisticated machinery of its kind in Europe, have already been installed at the company’s plant on Blaina’s Rising Sun Industrial Estate.

It is this technology transfer, coupled with Shoda’s expertise in this field that will enable the Speciality Sauce Company to launch an extensive new range of sauces for the food service industry later this year.

It already produces a wide range of sauces and is the UK’s prime producer of soy sauce, supplying many of the UK leading food producers.

“We aim to win a sizeable share of the massive European market in sachets within three years using the expertise and experience of Shoda which is unrivalled anywhere in Europe,” explained Mr Phillips.

The long-term strategy he said is to become a major European force in the production of soy sauce and sauce sachets.

There is a growing market for Japanese soy sauce in Europe. The EU imports thousands of tonnes of soy sauce annually but there is currently only one major Japanese producer with a manufacturing base in Europe.

Sir David Rowe-Beddoe, Chairman of The Welsh Development Agency, which has worked closely with both Shoda and the Speciality Sauce Company, said he was delighted to see another prestigious Japanese company investing in Wales.

“This alliance is already bringing tangible benefits to Wales including world class technology. This investment will bring new opportunities for expansion and the creation of new jobs.

“It is also a mark of confidence that a company of the calibre of Shoda – a world leader in its field – chooses Wales as the base for its first European manufacturing investment. The Agency will continue to work closely with the company to help it maximise these opportunities.”

The Speciality Sauce Company is a Welsh success story – beginning production in Blaina in 1996 with the support of the WDA. Prior to this the founder members had spent several years developing products, interesting customers and putting the finance in place.

It was the company’s desire to make inroads into the European soy sauce market and their bid to improve the quality of their sauce – which led to the take-over.

Mr Phillips said Shoda’s involvement had given the business a great opportunity to expand. “We are delighted Shoda has invested in the Speciality Sauce Company – their technology and expertise is absolutely staggering and their standards of quality are quite exceptional and we intend to continue Shoda’s tradition of excellence.”