Monday, November 29, 2010

Bento & Co. - The Rise of the Japanese Lunchbox お弁当箱革命:Bento & Co.

The name "bento" may not mean much to many of you residing outside of Japan, however for those of you who own an Apple computer, you may have the Bento software program on your computer.  But where does the name come from and why did Apple chose to name one of its software "bento"?

Simply put, "bento" means lunch box in English.  For those of you unfamiliar with Japanese lunch boxes, they are a work of art.  Always incorporating a variety of food with the colors of the rainbow, Japanese lunch boxes are not only a sight to see but are constructed in such an organized way that Apple decided to name one of its filemaker software after the term.

After hearing a story of a Frenchman residing in Kyoto who capitalized on the popularity of the Japanese lunch box in Western Europe, I decided to pay a visit to meet the man behind the bento sensation overseas - Mr. Bertrand Thomas of Bento & Co.

With his office located close to Kyoto University, Bertrand informed me that he got started selling bentos over the Internet just two years ago.  Having a passion for bentos, Bertrand marketed the various styles of bentos via his blog to residents in Western Europe.  After continuously receiving over 800 hits a day on his blog, Bertrand had a feeling that he might be able to make selling bentos over the web into a legitimate business.

Fast forward two years later, Bertrand is now the direct overseas distributor for bentos in Japan.  With most of his customers hailing from Western Europe, he has seen orders increase from Taiwan, Malaysia and Singapore of late.  With much of the world still untapped for the bento market, Bertrand is hoping to expand his business internationally in addition to opening a bento shop in Kyoto in the near future.

With few success stories in Kansai of late, it was great to have the chance to meet Bertrand and learn about the history of Bento & Co.


「お弁当箱」の西ヨーロッパでの人気に一役買ったフランス人が京都に住んでいると聞き、さっそく伺うことにしました。 海外でのお弁当ブームの火付け役、 Bento & Co. のBetrand Thomas(ベトランド・トーマス)さんです。
現在、海外へ直接お弁当箱の販売を行っているのは、おそらくBento & Co. だけではないでしょうか。注文は西ヨーロッパからが一番多いそうですが、台湾、マレーシア、シンガポールからも増えてきているようです。世界で知られはじめたお弁当箱。これからより一層の国際的展開を目指して、トーマスさんは京都での店舗設立も含め、 お弁当箱ビジネスを広げていく予定です。

ここ近年、不景気だ不景気だと言われていますが、Bento & Co.の明るいお話を聞くことができ、とても励みになりました。

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