The third annual U.S.-Japan Natto Summit was held in Fargo, North Dakota, September 3-5.  Twenty-three Japanese natto soybean buyers attended along with natto suppliers from North Dakota, Minnesota, Michigan, Arkansas and Ohio.

Natto is a traditional Japanese food which is made from fermented soybeans. Fermentation breaks down the proteins in the soybean, making it easier to digest than whole soybeans. Natto is often eaten for breakfast and is popular in Japan for its health benefits. Natto soybeans are small, with a clear hilum and thin seed coat.

As a sponsor of the event, the North Dakota Soybean Council (NDSC) took part in the conference and tours.  

“The Natto Summit is a great example of how international trade meetings should be held,” says Harrison Weber, NDSC director of market development. “The small, intimate setting allows for buyers, distributors and producers to build direct relationships, potentially ending in direct business.”

Japan imports about 75 percent of its annual natto-soybean needs from the U.S.  Of that amount, nearly 80 percent comes from the Red River Valley region.   This summit brings many supply chain partners and competitors together for a two-day conference in order to discuss and to share the concerns, challenges and highlights within the industry.

Attendees toured three food-grade soybean plants: SB&B Foods, Inc. in Casselton, North Dakota; Brushvale Seed, Inc. in Breckenridge, Minnesota; and Richland IFC in Dwight, North Dakota. The attendees toured soybean research plots and breeding nurseries, all while experiencing each step of the food-grade soybean cleaning process at the facilities.

Natto Summit attendees tour Brushvale Seed in Breckenridge, Minnesota.
Linda Funk from The Soyfoods Council and Liz Sloan of Sloan Trends, Inc. presented at the Natto Summit. They talked about U.S. and global food trends.