"An Association of Willful Housewives" - Country warmth combined with unrestrained ambition.
In the town of Minenobu, in Bibai City, you can find a special group formed by six local farmer's housewives. While these women regularly tackle the duel duty of farming and housekeeping, they've also decided to take on the extra job of manufacturing and selling special local foods. They have the unique position of being both the manufacturer and buyer of these goods, so all of their products are made with a special love and freedom that only country moms could possess. The group is called the "Association of Willful Housewives," and I recently payed them a visit to find out more!
It’s been eight years since the group first got together, and I asked about the details of their formation. The idea first came about through a shared love of local products, as a smiling Ms. Maekawa explained. "At that time we were rotating crops from rice to soybeans, but you know, soybeans sell for dirt cheap! There's a saying that goes 'Having to work with soy beans makes me want to do anything else.' and I think all the local farmer's wives felt the same way, so we decided to form our own group and do just that, anything else! But we figured out pretty quickly that the research and time that we would need to go into production was pretty hard to find, so we just ended up making products that all use soybeans. (laughs)" It turns out that the name of the group was inspired by Ms. Maekawa's email address, after the other group member's saw it, they decided it had to be their name. That warm feeling of togetherness, which is apparent in every item they sell, is what makes this group stand out.
From the left: "Nutritious Minunobu Soy Princess," "Everyday Health Minunobu Black Soy," "Minunobu Soy Rolled Fried Dough Cake," and "Hand-made Additive-free Kouji and Minunobu Soy Miso." Their products have a unique flavor to go along with these unique names.
Every year the lineup of flavors produced by the group grows. I asked what important points were considered in deciding new products. "We want to make them as safe and as healthy as possible, we buy these products ourselves after all! The same goes for when we decide price. We try and figure out if we would pay that much for it or if we would think it was too expensive. If we tried to decide price based on the production I doubt anyone would buy it at all!"
Because the group was started as a side project, the groups representative, Ms. Maekawa, hadn't originally been interested in product appeal or researching new product ideas. However lately it seems that she has been attending business seminars and energetically attending hand-made product, and sight-seeing promotion informational classes. "When we started we were making our own packaging along with the product, but the look and feel of it wasn't right. So I attended a sightseeing seminar and was turned on to package design and branding. I was lucky enough to meet an acquaintance who worked in a brand design firm at that same seminar, so I asked him to help design an all new look for our products.
So now we're using a new brand name, "Bibai Mother's Song," and we've locked in on our target market! Thanks to that we've increased the sales of every product we offer!" Don’t be mistaken, their goal wasn't to try to push their groups name by studying marketing and branding, nor was it to simply increase sales, they were more interested in increasing the appeal of their hometown, Bibai, and spreading the taste of local Bibai products as far as possible.
In recent years, Bibai has been holding more and more "food" themed events. And of course these lovely farm ladies are interested in participating. But, they have a few more important things to make sure of first. "While we certainly all want to continue making new products, all six of our members also want to be able to continue our farm work and our home lives. We also want to be sure to build our friendship and maintain our integrity while we work." The bonds within this group are strong, having been tested during product development, so we can be sure that this is a group that's here to stay. The next time you're in Bibai, be sure to try some of the delicious items they have for sale!
All products are sold at Bibai's "Antenna Shop Pipa." (Internet sales are not possible)
美唄発！アンテナショップPipa (From Bibai! Antenna Shop Pipa)
Location: 1-ku, Shintoku Town, Bibai, Hokkaido
(Hokkaido Likers Writer - Miyashita)