Toyo Ink Celebrates 100 Years, Looks Ahead to the Future

By David Savastano, Ink World Editor | 01.08.07

As Toyo Ink commemorates its 100th anniversary, the company continues to build on its core business and branch out into a wide range of related fields.

It is a rare company that continues to succeed in its field for a century. The company must have strong

Toyo Ink Manufacturing Co.’s headquarters, circa 1915, and present day in Tokyo, below.
leadership and the ability to develop innovative approaches that meet the needs of the marketplace.
Toyo Ink Manufacturing Co., Ltd. is definitely such a company. Founded in 1896 and incorporated in 1907, Toyo Ink has grown into a $2 billion (236,200 million yen) corporation employing 6,500 people in its 70 subsidiaries spread over 16 countries.        

Toyo Ink is the fourth-largest international ink manufacturer in the world, as well as one of the world’s largest pigment producers. While graphic arts accounts for 45 percent of its annual sales, the company has branched out successfully into a wide range of related fields, such
aspolymers and media materials, which include the growing high-tech field such as LCD screens.
“Our printing ink business is the core business of Toyo Ink,” said Fusao Ito, president of the Toyo Ink Group in America. “Building on the core business, our polymers business and materials business related to media have been growing recently at a high rate. Media materials is now a key driver of growth for us.”

The History of Toyo Ink

While the company is celebrating its 100th anniversary this month – Toyo Ink was incorporated on Jan. 15, 1907 – the company’s roots actually started in 1896. Kamataro Kobayashi, the founder, opened a private shop called “Kobayashi’s Ink Shop” at Honshirokane-cho, Nihonbashi, Tokyo, and formed Toyo Ink Manufacturing Co., Ltd. 11 years later.
Over the years, the company has many benchmarks to its credit. In 1920, the company produced its first red organic pigments, Brilliant Carmine 3B and Lake Red D2. By 1937, the company was manufacturing phthalo blue.
“We started manufacturing organic pigments for internal use at a very early stage of the company’s establishment,” Mr. Ito said.
Today, the company is an industry leader in classical pigments as well as high-performance pigments, including its Lionogen pigments for the automotive paint industry.
“We are focusing more on high-performance pigments,” Mr. Ito noted. “Lionogen is our product name for our high performance pigments. Lionogen pigments are not only used for paints and coatings, but also for applications of media-related materials, one of our high growth segments.”

Fusao Ito, president of the Toyo Ink Group in America.
In 1950, Toyo Ink set up a technical exchange agreement in printing ink with Interchemical Corporation in the U.S. In 1955, the company developed its successful Speed King line of multi-purpose inks. In 1971, the company developed UV inks. The last three decades have seen continuous growth at Toyo Ink, as the company has successfully opened new markets and developed new technologies.

Global Operations

Toyo Ink has long been a worldwide power. As early as 1926, Toyo Ink opened branch offices in Shanghai, China, and followed that with more offices in China as well as locations in Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Thailand, Australia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam. All told, Toyo Ink has 70 subsidiaries in 16 countries.
China has been among Toyo Ink’s greatest successes. The company’s visionary approach to the Chinese market has placed it in the leadership of the ink market with Tianjin Toyo Ink Co., Ltd., Tianjin-city, China, the largest ink manufacturer in China. In addition, the company has 13 other subsidiaries in China, manufacturing inks, pigments, resins and plastic colorants.
“We are very strong in China,” said Mr. Ito. “We have a long history in the region. We have created a family atmosphere at our factories, and have many second- and third-generation employees. They have grown up with our company, and there is a sense of trust.”
The company’s entry into the North American market came in 1976, with the dissolution of the 1950 agreement with Interchemical, thus forming Toyo Ink America, Inc. (presently Toyo Ink America, LLC). It would follow that in 1988 by opening Liochem in Conyers, GA, a key center for manufacturing plastic colorants as well as gravure inks.
The North American market is one that Mr. Ito believes also offers opportunities for growth.
“We have more opportunities to create a new business model here,” Mr. Ito said. “I feel we need more R&D for the North American market, as its needs are different from other regions.”

Research & Development

R&D is the lifeblood of Toyo Ink, as the company moves forward in high-performance pigments, inkjet, optoelectronics, flat screen display technology and LCD color filters, and RFID. The company’s reputation for R&D has helped drive these innovations.   
“Through our reputation in the marketplace and a loyal customer base, we are presented with a lot
ofopportunities to exchange ideas, discuss the possibility of new businesses and develop new products,” Mr. Ito said. “New products lead to new topics, which in turn lead to new opportunities. The relationship of mutual trust can be adapted to emerging new markets. Toyo Ink treasures its reputation as a trusted ‘Business Partner.’
“We are a technology-oriented company, and specialize in developing new raw materials for our customers,” Mr. Ito added. “We are adapting our technology in each region, and creating more localized products.”
“The technologies related to key materials, such as pigments, polymers and additives for printing inks contribute to increasing value for our customers,” Mr. Ito said. “The printing method has spread into a wide range of applications, including the electronics field. Our inking technology of new materials is in demand anywhere, anytime, serving as the foundation for many innovative new applications. Toyo Ink is striving to create new value in new markets.  
“Our sources of strength are our loyal customer base and our manufacturing expertise,” Mr. Ito added. “We have a long tradition of quality manufacturing based on our capabilities in pigments and polymers, mainstays of our technology platform.”

Environmental Awareness

Toyo Ink prides itself on its citizenship. One area of great importance to Toyo Ink is the environment, and the company has long been active in setting the highest standards. As far back as 1973, Toyo Ink set up Environmental Awareness Committees at each plant to control pollution. In 1997, Toyo Ink earned the ISO14001 certification at its Fuji plant, and of much significance, its aroma-free newspaper ink received the first “Eco-Mark” in Japan.       
In 1999, Toyo Ink opened its Ecology Center and published its Environmental Report. Its 2004 follow-up, “Environmental and Social Report,” noted the progress Toyo Ink has made in areas as diverse as chemical substance management, developing environmentally conscious products and corporate social responsibility.
“We recognize the importance of protecting the environment,” Mr. Ito said. “Conventional subterranean resources are limited and will eventually become depleted if we continue to use them. As our responsibility to the future, we have to create new clean and safe resources for our children, by effective and environmentally conscious use of limited natural resources.”

The Future of Toyo Ink

Toyo Ink has long been preparing to celebrate its first century of accomplishment. Back in 1993, the company set up “Take Off 2007,” its vision for the future. A far-reaching document, Take Off 2007 encompasses ideas such as Corporate Social Responsibility and improving human culture. Mr. Ito believes the company has met its goals, and must now look toward meeting new responsibilities.
“Customer satisfaction, employee satisfaction and social satisfaction is so important for Toyo Ink,” said Mr. Ito. “We must contribute to improving humanity and individual quality of life. It is our duty as a chemical manufacturer for our children and for future generations.
“We are making solid progress toward becoming a company creating new values for the prosperity of humankind throughout the world, a concept that we believe is rooted in Corporate Social Responsibility,” Mr. Ito said. “Through the creation of new technology, products and businesses, we will base our sustainable growth on the provision of high quality products in harmony with the environment.”
“In 1993, Toyo Ink started Take Off 2007, a collective dream for our company and employees,” Mr. Ito said.        

As Toyo Ink heads into its second century, the company will no doubt look toward its heritage and its sense of responsibility as it plans for a successful future.
“We are proud of our heritage and our long history as an industry leader and innovator,” Mr. Ito said. “We are mapping out a new plan for the next 100 years. Toyo will continue to generate new and exciting products not just for the short term, but those that open new opportunities and create a better future for all.”