When Fishking Processors, Inc., a seafood processing company, was first established in 1955, Masashi Kawaguchi was building much more than a business. He was building a solid foundation for future generations of the Kawaguchi family to grow and expand.
Growing up in a home where business and family were one, Gary Kawaguchi, the oldest son, took an early interest in the business. After school and on weekends, Gary worked in the plant and with his father learning the family business.
Masashi Kawaguchi first learned about Panko breadcrumbs while eating at Japanese restaurants. Because of its light delicate crispy texture he thought Panko might be a welcomed change from the standard breadcrumbs currently used in American restaurants. Masashi started using Panko as a coating for his seafood that was primarily sold to American restaurants. He was right! It was very well received and Masashi Kawaguchi began importing Panko from Japan. At this time Japan was the only country making this unique breadcrumb.
In late 1970s, Gary had earned the responsibility of managing one of the family’s busy seafood-processing plants located in Bayou La Batre, Alabama. During this time, the seafood business had grown, as well as the demand for Panko. Panko was the coating used for their seafood and a product they could only get from Japan.
Original Import / Export of Panko
Wheat for flour was not a significant crop in Japan, which required Panko manufacturers in Japan to import the wheat flour from the United States. When considering the flour used in Japanese Panko is originally from the US, it didn’t seem logical or economical for the Kawaguchi family to continue importing Panko from Japan.
Never afraid of a challenge (or an adventure!) Gary was off to Japan to learn how to make Panko by working with their Panko suppliers. Just like the seafood processing business, Gary worked from the ground up learning how to make authentic Japanese Panko. Gary learned first-hand the formula for the special blend of flour, the equipment needed and the traditional production process necessary to create authentic traditional Japanese Panko breadcrumbs.
Authentic Panko Plant in America is Built
Returning from Japan, Gary came home with more than experience and first-hand knowledge of Panko; he had also purchased all the equipment needed to build their own Panko plant.
In 1982, the Kawaguchi family built their Panko plant to produce Authentic Panko in America. Initially, the plant was built to support their seafood processing plants growing need for quality authentic Panko.
However, it didn’t take long for Japanese restaurants and Japanese food distributors to learn the Kawaguchis were producing authentic high quality Panko right here in the USA. The plant was soon supplying Panko to Japanese restaurants and Japanese food distributors throughout the US, as well as their seafood plants in California, Washington, and Alabama.
Because good news travels fast, it wasn’t long before Gary was receiving requests from large high quality American chain restaurants looking for authentic Panko. These restaurants discovered Authentic Panko had a distinctive difference with a light crispy and delicate texture compared to the standard Panko (hard, round & dense texture) produced in the USA by other coating companies.
Other breading companies, seeing the growing popularity of Panko, started producing Panko. However, these companies used different methods with short cuts that resulted in Panko that were round in shape, and had a hard and dense texture. Not a true authentic Panko breadcrumb.
Carefully taking the time to use traditional Japanese methods and to create an authentic Panko with a light, airy, crispy, and delicate crumb, Gary’s Authentic Panko soon caught the attention of the F&B industry overseas. Sales expanded beyond the American and Japanese distributors, and into international distributors in Mexico and South/Central America.
The Beginning of a New Chapter
In 2006, the Kawaguchi seafood business merged with another seafood company. This created the opportunity for the Panko plant to spin-off as a stand-alone company, and Upper Crust Enterprises Inc. was founded with Gary as the president.
With Gary’s leadership and his father’s vision, the business has grown to supply Authentic Panko worldwide. Maintaining the original formula and traditional processes for over 40 years, Gary has continued to focus on producing the best Authentic Panko, equal to the Panko you would receive in Japan.
Staying true to tradition and quality, Upper Crust Enterprises Authentic Panko has increased sales from a national brand to a global resource. Always light and airy with a delicate crispy texture, Authentic Panko is never hard or dense.
Upper Crust Enterprises’ Future is Bright
Upper Crust Enterprises remains on course with Masashi Kawaguchi’s original vision, and the family-run world-class company legacy continues. Gary’s adult children are also very involved in the business and have proudly taken on leadership positions. Like their patriarch, they take great pride in producing the best quality Authentic Japanese Panko.
The Kawaguchis consider themselves fortunate for the amazing employees at Upper Crust Enterprises, which are more like extended family. Many of whom have been with the company for over 30 years. Their dedication and strong influence have been invaluable in the growth and evolution of the company.
Not all Panko is Authentic
Not all panko brands are Authentic Japanese Panko breadcrumbs; the difference is substantial in performance and quality. Any panko that has a hard and dense texture and a round shaped crumb is not an Authentic Panko.
An Authentic Panko is always light and delicate with a sliver shaped flaky crumb and has the following characteristics:
- Shape: Authentic Panko has a sliver shape and flaky crumb. The sliver shape provides better highlights making the coated product look bigger and more appetizing.
- Texture: Authentic Panko has a light airy delicate texture, providing a light crispy taste. Standard Panko will be round with a hard dense texture.
- Size: Authentic Panko has fewer fines with a larger sliver shape flaky crumb vs. the round hard crumb of standard Panko. Size matters and has a significant impact on the overall plate presentation and yield.
- Yield: Authentic Panko is light and airy, it provides at least a 26% better yield when compared to standard Panko. Since Panko is purchased by the pound but used by volume, the airy larger crumb goes further.
Exclusively for Professional Chef and Food Distributors
We invite all professional chefs and food distributors to try a free sample of our Authentic Panko. Compare and experience the differences first hand.
We guarantee Upper Crust Enterprises Authentic All Natural Panko will:
- Taste lighter and crispier.
- Have a delicate crispy texture that stays crispy longer.
- Provide a better yield than standard Panko.
- Perform better than standard breadcrumbs.
- Deliver a better plate presentation making coating items look bigger but not taste bready.
Our simple and clean ingredients is just one of the many things that sets Upper Crust Enterprises apart from other foodservice brands. We only use traditional ingredients, without additives, dough conditioner or preservatives. Our Authentic Panko products are certified GMO Free, Vegan / Vegetarian, Kosher and Halal, making them the perfect choice for any professional kitchen.