A 112-year-old Japanese company's plant is run by a Portuguese manager born in Angola with a work force of Mercedians that ships 15 percent of its tomato products overseas, especially to China.
That's Kagome Inc., started here in 1990. It's a unit of Nagoya-based Ka-gome Co. Ltd., founded by Ichitaro Kanie, who planted the first tomatoes in Japan. Today its product line includes several kinds of antioxidant foods, products containing lactic acid bacteria to help stimulate the immune system and vegetable drinks laced with a dash of vodka.
In its Japanese plants and offices, the company stocks refrigerators full of Kagome products, and employees can drink them anytime for free.
The company operates subsidiaries in China, Taiwan, Portugal, Mongolia, Turkey, Italy -- and on the Westside of Merced County. That one is capitalized at $15 million, according to Kagome's English-language website. The parent company employs some 2,000 people around the world and reported sales of $2.23 billion and net income of $27 million in its fiscal year 2009.
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