Kikkoman's Online Bland

From a branding perspective, the soy sauce king's Web site mixes all the wrong ingredients, but it provides a lot of information

Aside from a dark "umami" (savory) flavor, what is there to be said about soy sauce?

You'd be surprised. Soy sauce is thought to have a legacy that goes back more than 2,500 years, making it one of the world's oldest condiments.

The folks at Kikkoman take pride in explaining the rich history of the brand and the origins of soy sauce, complete with secret recipes and politely aggressive marketing techniques that have contributed to its position as a worldwide category leader today. The brand was even the subject of a book, written by journalist Ronald E. Yates, called The Kikkoman Chronicles: A global company with a Japanese soul.

Initially concocted in Noda, Japan, the original recipe for what became Kikkoman grew rapidly in popularity and seeped through the borders of Japan into the realm of commerce. In 1917, eight family companies merged to form the predecessor of Kikkoman Corporation, Noda Shoyu Co. In 1925, the company merged with three others to further expand the distribution reach.

Kikkoman first sprinkled on US soil in 1957 in San Francisco. It was the first Asian company to successfully introduce a wholly foreign product into the American market. Manufacturing in the States didn't begin until 1972 when it opened a brewing plant in Wisconsin (America's wheat and soybean country). As Asian cuisine made its way into the hearts and stomachs of Stateside citizens, Kikkoman opened a second plant in California to satiate growing demand. Today, Kikkoman claims that international sales ring in at over 2 billion dollars. We sampled to see how the site serves its customers.