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The History of MSG

Asians had originally used the “kombu” seaweed’s broth as a flavor enhancer, without understanding that glutamic acid was its flavor-enhancing component. In 1908, a multi-million-dollar industry was born when Professor Kikunae Ikeda of the University of Tokyo isolated monosodium glutamate using kombu. He noted that the Glutamate had a distinctive taste, different from sweet, sour, bitter and salty; he gave this taste the name “umami”. Umami, translates roughly to savory or meaty in the English language – or as Vogue food writer Jeffrey Steingarten once described it, “Supreme Deliciousness!”

In 1909 MSG entered the marketplace as Aji-no-moto, a product so successful the company reorganized itself around the substance. Today, the Ajinomoto Group’s 15 factories supply about one third of the 1.5 million-tons of MSG sold annually.

A slow and costly extraction process was used to produce MSG until 1956, when the Japanese succeeded in producing glutamic acid by means of fermentation; large-scale production of MSG began – the American ideal of Chinese Food was changed forever. The substance caught on rapidly in the U.S. By the 1960s, Accent, a leading brand of MSG had become a household name.