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Kikkoman hitting the pavement to reach new consumers

Tommy Birchfield, an employee at Zumiez at the Janesville Mall in Janesville, shows a T-shirt and a soy sauce bottle-shaped skateboard. 

WALWORTH — Things that go together: Cookies and milk, biscuits and gravy, soy sauce and skateboards.

Wait — soy sauce and skateboards are a thing?

They are now.

Kikkoman Foods, the worldwide soy sauce maker with a plant in Walworth, has teamed up with Primitive Skateboard Co. to produce a line of skateboard clothing and skateboards bearing the Kikkoman trademark.

Greg Cassius, merchandising manager for the California skateboard maker, said the Kikkoman-branded skateboards and clothing hit the retail market on March 1.

Primitive even makes a board shaped in the likeness of a Kikkoman soy sauce bottle. The bottle on wheels is a functional skateboard, but it is not designed for acrobatics.

Cassius said the boards — called CnC, or cruiser boards — are functional, but are mostly aimed at collectors. They’re primarily for cruising and showing off, not for trick riding.

Zumiez at the Janesville Mall in Janesville is among the few regional suppliers of the Kikkoman-inspired skateboards and gear.

Store employee Tommy Birchfield said the shop is already on its second order of the Kikkoman skateboards and clothing.

“They sold out quick,” he said.

The biggest customers, he said, are workers at the Kikkoman plant in Walworth.

“We have had people from Kikkoman come over to buy stuff,” he said. “I didn’t even know we had a plant nearby until those folks came by.”

He said his shop had to contact the Zumiez main office to reroute more Kikkoman skateboards to Janesville.

The cruiser board, which looks like a soy sauce bottle, sells for $70. The regular board sells for $65.

T-shirts are $28. The shop also sells Kikkoman-branded sandals, socks and hats.

Birchfield showed off a board shaped like a soy sauce bottle.

“I don’t know how you would ride this,” he said.

Most likely, the novelty boards will be purchased by collectors and hung on a wall, he said.

Cassius said Primitive approached the soy sauce giant two years ago with a proposal to create a line of skateboard products, including hoodies and T-shirts, emblazoned with the Kikkoman logo.

This is not the first time Primitive has connected its skateboards with food.

In 2016, the company partnered with Huy Fong, a company that makes sriracha sauce and created skateboards with the Huy Fong logo and a line of boards in the shape of a Huy Fong sriracha sauce bottle.

After sriracha sauce, the next logical step was soy sauce, Cassius said. And the biggest manufacturer of soy sauce in the world is Kikkoman.

“It’s in our DNA to do things about food,” he said.

How things got rolling

Cassius said he approached the company in 2017, first through its San Francisco office and then in Tokyo.

At first, Kikkoman Corp. did not know what to make of the suggestion, he said. And then Kinya Igarashi of Kikkoman’s foreign operations department in Tokyo stepped in, liked the idea, and helped Primitive get the project approved.

“Primitive Skateboarding approached us with an idea for a collaboration that combines our long-standing history of quality and innovation with their cutting-edge products,” Igarashi said. “We are constantly searching for authentic ways to build meaningful connections with our consumers, and the Primitive Skateboarding collaboration is a unique and exciting crossover for us.”

Igarashi said Kikkoman was involved in previous licensing agreements, usually for T-shirts, but this is the first time the company has signed on for a line of clothing and skateboards.

Primitive did the product design, Igarashi said.

He said he was particularly happy with the skateboard in the shape of a Kikkoman soy sauce bottle.

“The soy sauce dispenser skateboard is one-of-a-kind,” Igarashi said. “This bottle-shaped skateboard is a great way to get saucy on the street. Time to sauce it up.”

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Assistant Managing Editor

Pete Wicklund is the local editor for The Journal Times.

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