The Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake that struck Japan on January 17, 1995 came with a groundbreaking product: canned bread. After wreckage from the earthquake, it became difficult to transport bread to residents and by the time it was delivered, the bread would have already expired. Residents were tired of eating stale bread and as a result, Japanese bread company Pan Akimoto went through nearly one year of trial and error to develop a method to bake bread in a tin can, which would keep the product sterile, free of oxidization, and moist like fresh bread. The cans not only keep the bread fresh, they provide protection during delivery.
Victims of Japan’s Niigata Chuetsu earthquake that struck in 2004 were the beneficiaries of this product. So too were those affected by the Indian Ocean earthquake that same year off the coast of Sumatra, Indonesia, as well as the earthquake in Haiti in 2010. Most recently they were used as food relief in the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. The canned bread even made their way to space when it was brought inside Space Shuttle Discovery on a mission.
Because canned bread is typically stored as emergency food, they run the risk of expiring before being consumed. Pan Akimoto came up with an idea of reusing it. Since their canned bread has a shelf life of three years, the company would contact purchasers of the bread to collect unconsumed products with a remaining shelf life of one year, and replace them with new canned bread at a trade-in price. The collected bread would then be sent to areas with food shortage problems through NGOs working to save people from hunger. This way, purchasers can replace their unused products with new ones at a lower price and rather than letting the bread expire, it is beneficially consumed.
While it is best not to have to open canned bread, this innovation proves valuable wherever natural disaster strikes, and is a viable revenue stream for the company too.
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