Yo Sushi

Yo Sushi has stepped up its efforts to launch branded Japanese food into retailers and food-to-go outlets with the acquisition of Taiko Foods.

The purchase of the London-based sushi and Asian food-to-go provider, which has a major supply contract with Waitrose under the Taiko brand, will help underpin Yo’s shift from restaurateur to a multi-brand, multi-format food group.

Taiko will continue to be led by its existing management team and to exclusively supply Waitrose with Taiko-branded products.

But Yo chief executive Richard Hodgson told The Grocer that Taiko’s “cutting edge” 220-strong West London factory provided the capacity to ramp up the group’s food-to-go offer into a wider range of retailers.

“A lot of people are buying sushi from retailers and we want part of that business,” he said.

“The combination of the Yo brand together with Taiko’s manufacturing capacity and know-how offers a big opportunity for us. The Yo brand has incredible consumer awareness. We believe putting the Yo brand on a high quality range of products in another supermarket could be great for us and great for that retailer.”

“There’s a lot of nervousness around raw fish and sushi, so the reassurance of the Yo brand together with the best sushi product in UK supermarkets today is a fantastic combination,” added Hodgson.

“If we have a product that I believe is worthy of the Yo name, we will definitely talk to other UK supermarkets. I think we can get there or we wouldn’t have bought the business.”

The acquisition comes at a time of rapid change for Yo after Mayfair acquired it in 2015. Yo has already branched out into retail and food service in North America after buying Canadian brand Bento, which boasts a 65% market share in its home country, in November last year.

The former Asda, Waitrose and Morrisons commercial director, who was most recently CEO of Pizza Express, joined the group in the days following the Bento deal, replacing Robin Rowland, who had led Yo for 18 years.

“We need to build the brand carefully over the next 5-10 years, but I didn’t join Yo Sushi just to open a few more UK restaurants and oversee modest growth,” Hodgson added. “There is amazing growth in Japanese food all around the world and I believe we can be a key part of that.”