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Ajinomoto, the 112-year-old Japanese food maker most famous for its MSG seasoning, has become a surprising beneficiary of the upheaval caused by the pandemic.

As its spices and sauces have struggled as lockdowns devastate the restaurant industry, the company’s unexpected sideline as a supplier of high-tech film to the computer chip industry is booming – helping Ajinomoto achieve record operating profit in the last quarter.

Ajinomoto exemplifies Japan’s ability to reinvent itself as a business, just as Fujifilm has transformed from a manufacturer of photographic films into a pharmaceutical powerhouse and Olympus has grown from a struggling camera maker to the leading endoscope maker. .

But analysts now want to know how far and how quickly Ajinomoto can reach beyond its roots in the food industry.

“ABF is inside most of the desktops and laptops that people use,” Shigeo Nakamura, the company’s chief chemicals officer, told Nikkei Asia, referring to Ajinomoto’s build-up film.

ABF is a thin composite used to attach a processor to a base layer called a substrate, part of a chip package that connects the chip to the motherboard and protects it from damage.

The ABF is laminated to a substrate, which is then plated with copper, allowing the fabrication of circuits. Substrates are widely used in high power computing chips found in satellites, 5G base stations, and self-driving cars.

As the coronavirus sparked huge demand for upgrading information technology infrastructure – and sparked a global chip shortage – Ajinomoto’s sales could be even higher if its customers could scale faster to respond to the request.

The stock market rewarded Ajinomoto with its highest share price in five years, and the business segment that includes electronics and healthcare accounted for 23% of the company’s overall operating profit in the past. during the year ending in March 2021.

“Every company should regularly review its portfolio of activities,” said Makoto Morita, equity analyst at Daiwa Securities. “This is especially the case for Japanese food manufacturers, who are facing a shrinking population in their domestic market.”

Morita wants Ajinomoto to be even more aggressive in reshuffling his portfolio. Global food manufacturers like Nestle, Danone and Unilever, he said, are making more acquisitions and divestitures than their Japanese counterparts. “Ajinomoto could do more.”

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