It may never come to a theater near you, but a film with heart, soul and soy sauce has been cooked up. Make Haste Slowly is a mini-doc that tells the story of how Kikkoman's ubiquitous condiment came to be such a big hit on tables everywhere. The trailer, now showing on YouTube, is as compelling as any big screen preview and whets your appetite for more. (And we dare you not to get a little choked up when you watch it.)
According to an Adweek story, Make Haste Slowly delves into the 300-year history of Kikkoman, from its founding in feudal Japan to its current status as the best-selling global soy sauce manufacturer. Kikkoman is hoping the 24-minute film will be shown on the Food Network or other cable channels.
The documentary is a leap forward in product placement, which is a hidden story arc in nearly every Hollywood movie. This time, the product itself inspires the plot and characters. The film was directed by Lucy Walker, whose feature documentary Waste Land won a bunch of awards in 2011, as well as an Oscar nomination.
Adweek asked documentarian Morgan Spurlock, writer of Super Size Me, for his thoughts on a potential audience for this kind of promo film. Spurlock told Adweek: “I don't think people will rush down to the corner theater to watch a Kikkoman film. But if you're using this as a historical document, there could be some great storytelling to come out of it.”
The film includes heartfelt interviews with the good folks of Walworth, Wisconsin, who have had a four-decade profitable relationship with Kikkoman. In the trailer, images of dairy cows are juxtaposed with soy sauce bottles on an assembly line. One elderly Walworth resident gets emotional as he delivers a message to Kikkoman: “Arigato. Thank you for the job.”
In 1972, in what one resident calls a “bold, bold experiment,” Kikkoman established a production plant in Walworth, a small farming community in the heart of the country's soybean and wheat fields. Expressmilwaukee.com reported that the Walworth plant makes more soy sauce than any other company facility. Some 29 million gallons of soy sauce, about 30% of Kikkoman's product, come out of Wisconsin. (And here we thought that state was just famous for cheese.)
The Kikkoman website traces the invention of soy sauce back to 500 B.C. in China. According to company lore, the original recipe was developed and brewed “by a resourceful widow in Noda, Japan” during the 17th century. The company now has three soy sauce plants in Japan and seven abroad. It began exporting soy sauce to the United States in the 1800s.
In related soy sauce news, there is even drama in the evolution of Kikkoman's iconic teardrop-shaped bottle. A New York Times article this summer told of bottle designer Kenji Ekuan, who was profoundly affected by the devastating loss of his sister and father in the Hiroshima blast. Ekuan told the newspaper that in trying to proceed with his life: “I needed something to touch, to look at. Right then I decided to become a maker of things.” The result was the Kikkoman bottle, introduced in 1961 and still going strong.
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