Most people recognize these words as the command that magically opens a cave full of treasure in the story of "Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves." There are debates about its origin, but one theory is based on the nature of sesame seeds, which burst from their capsules during the drying stage before harvest. The idea is that whoever utters the command is summoning the treasure to burst forth from its cave.
Things may have worked out for Ali Baba, but for most of the world's sesame producers, the explosive nature of the seeds is a real headache. Because they scatter when their capsules shatter, sesame seeds typically need to be harvested manually, which is time and labor consuming. Furthermore, most sesame is grown by small farms in developing countries, where it is difficult to manage things like quality and production history (traceability), and both supply and cost of sesame tend to be unstable.
One grower in the US, however, has been revolutionizing the industry. Texas-based Sesaco Corporation is the premier genetic developer, processor, and marketer of US grown sesame. It has engineered the world's only non-dehiscent (ND) sesame varieties, whose capsules remain intact even during the drying stages. This means that they can be harvested quickly by machines directly from standing plants, vastly increasing productivity. Also, because Sesaco records and manages every stage of production from farming to shipping, food safety is less of a concern than with traditional sesame operations. And because Sesaco guarantees its contracted farmers that it will purchase all of their harvested product, the farmers can relax and concentrate on their work.
"The main focus of our Sesaco business is R&D," says Hideo Nishie, leader of MC's Sesame Team. "It is amazing to watch your ideas and discoveries take the shape of new products, and the feeling you get when you secure a new supply contract makes all of the hard work worthwhile."
Sesaco is constantly assessing consumer needs, and one of its buyers is Illinois-based TH Foods, another MC subsidiary. TH Foods is a leading producer of snacks that has successfully combined Japanese expertise in baking thin, crispy rice crackers with Sesaco's revolutionary sesame seeds. The combination has created new demand in the US and a steady rise in TH Foods' sales.
"When we started, our dream was to change the sesame industry," says Glenn Charles Smith, founder and president of Sesaco. "Together with MC, we have made that dream come true."
Last year, MC formed a tie-up with Olam International, a major producer of agricultural products based in Singapore. By acquiring a stake in Olam, MC is accelerating its efforts to provide global consumers with safe and sustainable food products.
When MC set out to revolutionize food industries, its aim was to open a brighter future for people around the world. Ironic that it should begin with a sesame that doesn't open at all.
This article appeared in Asahi Shimbun's "GLOBE" feature of June 5, 2016.