世界に誇る「水の山」プロジェクト ABOUT "MIZUNOYAMA" PROJECT
#007 Chateraise Hakushu Factory
Striving to bring deliciousness and smiles to people around the world
Chateraise offers delicious, safe sweets made with fresh, high-quality ingredients at reasonable prices. The company manufactures a wide array of products. In addition to classic cakes, ice creams, jellies, baked sweets, and Japanese sweets, it produces breads, pizza, allergy-free sweets, and even a low-carb lineup of products that have drawn attention lately. It manufactures sweets that are sold at 600 stores in Japan and 100 stores overseas in eight countries.
The Chateraise Hakushu Factory is situated in the middle of a forest very close to Ojira Forest Famous Water Park, Verga. Hakushu Factory Manager Kazuhiro Okada says, “We manufacture delicious sweets with a focus on ingredients and manufacturing methods to achieve our concept of ‘bringing smiles to faces in Japan.’ Water is an important ingredient essential to making sweets.” According to Mr. Okada, water that is pure, mild and free of any flavor is the most suited to making sweets. Although Hakushu Meisui is natural mineral water that has been filtered over time through the granite layers of Mount Kaikoma, the excellent water from Hakushu has a low mineral content. It is truly the optimal water, and encountering this water has become the foundation that supports Chateraise’s manufacturing of sweets today. The hardness of water is calculated based on the amount of magnesium and calcium it contains. WHO regards soft water as up to 120mg/l and anything above that as hard water, but the hardness of Hakushu Meisui that Chateraise uses is only 16–22mg/l. It is soft water in every respect that is called the softest water. To obtain this precious water that already has a low mineral content, Chateraise focused on the area of Hakushu water veins with low mineral composition and drilled a well. The company utilizes the water to manufacture sweets not only at the Chateraise Factory, but also at the factory at the Head Office and Toyotomi Factory by transporting the water in tank trucks.
The Chateraise Hakushu Factory was built in July 1994 as the company’s second factory after the Nakamichi Factory at the Head Office. While it is a factory designed for the 21st century that coexists with the surrounding environment of abundant nature, at the same time it is also the largest frozen sweets factory in Japan. Since its establishment, as the major center of the farm factory system, it has continued to provide a daily supply of products in which water plays an important role. These products are transported from Yamanashi, which has a wealth of ingredients, to the company’s own stores and factories in Japan and abroad.
What are products in which water plays an important role? One such product is red bean paste. President Hideaki Murata who oversees the entire manufacturing line from production planning to manufacturing, verification, and shipping notes that, “The red bean paste used in sweets made by Chateraise is completely manufactured at the Hakushu Factory.” Mr. Murata is a specialist that has exclusively worked with red bean paste since joining the company ten years ago. He proudly says, “Since water begins to be absorbed the moment the beans first come into contact with it, the water that is first used is extremely important. Our company uses adzuki beans grown in Hokkaido that are cultivated by contracted farmers, and the entire process from cleaning to cooking is carried out with Hakushu Meisui. In fact, we’ve gathered water from places throughout Japan said to have excellent water and tried them, but sure enough, we come back to Hakushu Meisui. It’s the best in terms of how the red bean paste dissolves in the mouth and its flavor and color after cooking. Based on that experience, we strive to make red bean paste with high ideals based on the understanding shared by our entire team that we must use this water conscientiously.”
Because the red bean paste used differs depending on the sweets, 60–80 types of red bean paste are made every day. Adzuki beans are an agricultural product and the quality varies each year. The size of the beans also differs. Moreover, minute changes occur depending on day-to-day weather conditions, such as temperature and humidity. While taking these into account and making adjustments, it is the mission of the red bean paste manufacturing line to create red bean paste of consistent quality and send it to various factories. To achieve this, Mr. Murata continues to conduct research daily. “There is no end goal for creating red bean paste. I’ve always loved red-bean-paste rice dumplings and eaten them since I was little, so I work diligently every day out of the desire to create truly delicious red bean paste.” His carefree smile provides a glimpse of the unwavering pride of a professional red bean paste manufacturer.
Another key product from Hakushu Factory is ice cream. “Ice cream is made from the raw ingredients of sugar, dairy products, fruit juice, and fruit pulp that are dissolved into water, so the kind of water used is of utmost importance. It’s no exaggeration to say that the quality of water impacts the final flavor of the product.” So says President Masahiro Nojiri from the product development department. He is single-handedly in charge of commercializing ice cream, from selecting raw ingredients to blending. “Of course, I’m meticulous about choosing raw ingredients, but I also emphasize how to further draw out and accentuate those flavors.”
Additives such as fragrances and stabilizing agents that are often used in ordinary ice creams are avoided as much as possible because there is a high risk of harming the quality and flavor of the raw ingredients themselves. Instead, Mr. Nojiri says they pursue the most delicious form through repeated trial production using methods such as boosting the ratio of materials against production cost. He says, “Hakushu Meisui is mild and brings out the flavors of the raw ingredients. It has a mellow, refreshing taste, so you can gain a better sense of the flavors of the ingredients, yet the ice cream has a good mouthfeel and is refreshing with a crisp aftertaste. It’s one of the important raw ingredients crucial to manufacturing ice cream.”
To release 30–40 new products a year, product development refines creations from the trial production of several hundred types. When asked which products he has confidence in from a lineup of over 100 different products, he first laughs and says, “Naturally, all of them.” Then, he names two strong products he has a particularly deep affinity for. One is the “Yatsugatake Keiyaku Bokujo Shiboritate Gyunyu Bar” (ice cream bar made from fresh milk from a contracted farm in Yatsugatake) because they succeeded in fully highlighting the quality and flavor of milk without many additives. The other is “Wagashi Aisu Tokachi Adzuki” (Japanese-style ice cream treat made with Tokachi adzuki beans) because they successfully sealed in the inherent deliciousness of red bean paste and flavor of adzuki beans by mixing in freshly cooked red bean paste.
Since its establishment in 1954, Chateraise has brought great-tasting, safe sweets to families by being discerning about ingredients and manufacturing methods. Today, the company has expanded not only throughout Japan, but also overseas. Its success is sustained by the careful selection of ingredients such as milk, eggs, fresh fruits, and water, as well as the people who strive daily to create sweets with passion and pride by maximizing the great flavors of those ingredients. After witnessing that enthusiasm and energy, the future of Chateraise that lies ahead, including the resumption of factory tours, is something to be even more excited about.