In June marine products company Nippon Suisan Kaisha became the first Japanese food company to set up R&D operations in the valley Food Valley with the aim of gleaning greater understanding of European consumer preferences and develop products to meet them. Now Kikkoman, a Japanese soy sauce company, has set up a new R&D laboratory in Wageningen. The initiative is said to fit well with its global R&D network "for developing new flavours and tastes in intercultural environments." The short term aim of laboratory, which is based at the Bio Partners centre, is to develop food products aimed at the European market. In the mid-term the goal is to develop innovative food technologies. The firm has had a production plant in Hoogezand Sappemeer for the last ten years, which has proved vital to development of new markets in Europe (such as The Netherlands, Germany and the UK). Now the company says new countries are waking up to Japanese flavours, such as Eastern Europe and Russia. Food Valley is the working home of around 10,000 people active in sciences, technological development and related business, who are based at over 70 agro food companies and research institutes, including Wageningen University. Kikkoman has said that it sees Food Valley as an ideal location for the lab because of the resources available at the university that it will have access to, such as technology seeds, researchers, equipment and joint research projects. The news also shows a spirit of exchange in the global food market. Some European ingredients firms, such as Symrise and Tate & Lyle, have this year opened or extended R&D operations in Asia so as to better meet the needs of consumers in that region. Their centres are based in Singapore and Shanghai respectively. Estimates from the International Monetary Fund put growth in consumer spending in Asia (including Japan, as well as emerging economies) at an average of 6.3 per cent a year in 2005 and 2006. It seems that the Western consumer is no less interesting to the Asian operator - and figures from Leatherhead shed light on the sense of this strategy. A report called The European Ethnic Foods Market, published in May, valued the Western European market at €4.12bn in 2006. Of the countries included in the research (UK, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Germany and the Benelux and Scandinavian countries), the UK was found to have the largest and most developed market, worth €2.34bn, followed by France and Germany. Chinese/Oriental food makes up the biggest slice of the market, accounting for 42 per cent. But other countries' foods are also garnering interest from European consumers, including Japan, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Morocco, North Africa and the US (such as Cajun).