Kikusui Tape has been dedicated to the production of Pressure-Sensitive Adhesive (PSA) tape since their establishment In 1949 and it was the first brand to commercialize kraft tape in Japan. Since then, they have been pursuing the improvement of their products with priceless properties that contribute to society. We interviewed President and CEO Daisuke Nishizawa who shared with us more about their latest developments, such as tapes that can be used at farms for growing crops, as well as their response to environmental demands through the development of non-polyethylene laminated kraft tape and curing tape using low VOC adhesive, which emit less CO2 during combustion than conventional ones.
Japanese manufacturing or monozukuri which has become famous worldwide since World War II (WWII). When it comes to your company as an adhesive tape manufacturer, what do you consider to be the advantages of the Japanese monozukuri especially compared to regional competitors in South Korea, China, and Taiwan?
Our advantage is the know-how cultivated through many years of experience as an adhesive tape manufacturer.
By making the best use of that know-how, we have gained the trust of many domestic and overseas customers and have developed as a company.
Although your company is an SME, nevertheless, you are able to occupy a certain niche where you have become a market leader—you are a big fish in a small pond. What is the niche that you are shining in and how were you able to do that as an SME?
We have offices in Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya, Fukuoka, and Hiroshima, and have gradually built relationships with our customers by having face-to-face business negotiations based on our knowledge of adhesive tapes. Thanks to these relationships of trust with our customers, we have laid a solid foundation in our niche market.
Japanese SMEs are able to provide high quality technologies for your specific products as you cater to the industry. In your specific case, could you please talk to us about your unique technology and strength in terms of product development?
Every adhesive tape has a sticky part, and I would like to explain why. Our factory in Mie Prefecture is located close to residential areas and schools which means there are a lot of people that commute every day. My idea was to introduce basic knowledge to these local people about our products. For instance, if a 10-year-old student is joining our plant tour it would be difficult to explain our technology to them. We try to make it as simple as possible and the first thing that we do is to make them understand why there is a sticky part. Tapes are defined by the level of adhesiveness. As we explain the tapes’ properties to the students, we compare them to human relationships: In school you have friends that stay with you for many years while some only stay for a short time. When the school is finished you go your separate ways: the tapes are like this. The tapes are analogous to human connections. If you develop a good bond with others, you could become really good friends, just like the strong adhesive tapes. This is how we illustrate the idea of our manufacturing and know-how in simple explanations. At convenient stores there are products on the stand that need to be protected with tapes. For instance, if a magazine had been opened the store clerk would know.
There are different materials that are used for adhesive tapes: kraft paper, polyethylene, PVC, silicon, cloth, acrylic rubber, and a variety of other materials. Which new sustainable materials are you adopting to make your tapes more carbon-friendly?
These non-laminated tapes are much more environmentally friendly because they are based on natural rubber. These non-polyethylene laminated tapes are high in quality and have strong adhesiveness. This is our company’s contribution to the reduction of the carbon footprint. Furthermore, this product passed the biomass certification. One important property about this tape is it can be greatly used for carton boxes, they are not slippery which is very convenient for delivery companies. The plastic wastes in marine life have caused a lot of environmental problems, but our tapes do not contribute to this problem because the substrate is paper and it is non-laminated.
Among the kraft tapes we have been manufacturing for some time, there is a non-polyethylene laminated kraft tape. This tape emits less CO2 during combustion than general kraft tape, contributing to global warming countermeasures. Furthermore, by using naturally derived materials for the adhesive and base, makes it a product with a low environmental impact.
＃100 BIO Kraft Paper Adhesive Tape
Since 1954 you have been developing tapes such as: line make masking tapes, reflective tapes, anti-slip tapes, and the ones that are made of cloth and are much stronger. Which tape would be the highlight as part of your technological innovations?
Our company has been selling a special crop tape we developed that is used for agriculture. Since 2018 we have been introducing this tape at expos which are held in Tokyo and Osaka. This kind of tape can be used for growing crops because it protects pumpkins as farmers grow them. We talked to the farmers which allowed us to come up with this kind of solution. By wrapping the pumpkin with this tape, the farmers are able to sustain the fruits’ good features. When the pumpkin is too exposed to the sunlight the color fades; our tape solves this problem–this protects the fruit from UV exposure. As you know, Japanese people are particular not only about the contents of the pumpkin but also the outside appearance. In order to increase the visual aesthetics of the fruit this product of ours is very helpful. Having introduced this product to the agricultural sector and gained success, we were able to provide more solutions to the farmers here in Japan. If a pumpkin’s color fades it would just end up being thrown away, but with our product that protects the pumpkins we were able to contribute to reduce the amount of food wastage.
You have mentioned that expos are something that your company has been very active in. The Osaka Expo will be held in 2025 and we know that many companies are anticipating this event. There will be roughly 28 million people visiting this expo, what products are you going to showcase to the international audience during the Osaka Expo in 2025?
We have no plans to exhibit at the Osaka Expo at this time. We are currently preparing for an international packaging exhibition in Germany next year. At Interpack, we will exhibit a large number of tapes, particularly the ones that are environmentally friendly, such as the ones with no plastics and that reduce the CO2 emission, and we would like many people to know about our environmental efforts.
Are you looking for co-creation partners?
No. We are fulfilling and implementing what we are capable of doing. We are only engaged in something within our zone. Our major strength is our salespeople who know our products very well and are doing their best to introduce the uniqueness of our tapes to the market. We are doing our best to sustain our business instead of catching other horizons.
Previously you had 25% of your sales from overseas customers. The fact that you have been present in Taiwan since 1969 shows you truly are an international company. Moving forwards, which international markets do you foresee for your further growth?
For further growth in the future, we will strengthen our efforts in the environmental field. As an approach to environmental issues, we will focus on non-polyethylene laminated kraft tape and curing tape using low VOC adhesive, which emit less CO2 during combustion than conventional ones. We would like to firmly tackle the SDGS of society as a whole through the development and sale of these tapes. In addition, I would like to take a multifaceted view of the environmental problems faced by many countries, such as food loss and waste reduction, and contribute to solving them.
I would like to ask the market about these products at the German exhibition in 2023.
You are looking to promote your brands for both domestic and overseas through platforms such as Instagram and YouTube. What message would you like to tell your customers when they look at your Kikusui brand? How would you define the brand of Kikusui Tape?
Kikusui Tape was the first brand to commercialize kraft tape in Japan. As an adhesive tape brand, we have been providing high-quality tapes not only to the Japanese market but also to overseas markets by utilizing our unique know-how and experience. In the future, we will continue to provide environmentally friendly tapes to the market as a useful and reliable brand.
This year your company is celebrating its 68th anniversary. Imagine we come back in two years for your 70th anniversary to interview you again. What would you like to tell us? What are your dreams for this company and what goals would you like to have accomplished by then?
We will continue to make tapes for the next two years. Our customers use our tapes for packaging, curing, marking, and construction. We are also focusing on new product development. Social networking sites and exhibitions are platforms that can be used to introduce us and our products to a wider audience. We are trying to establish our position as a very professional tape manufacturing company; this serves as an excellent foundation. Finally, over the years we have accumulated a sizable fan base in national and international regions, and we hope to have many more.