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2 minutes read

How A Japanese Company Became The Largest Manufacturer Of Zippers Globally

| Published on March 31, 2023

There are many objects that come into our day-to-day use that we do not put much thought into. We just use them as per convenience and put them away when not needed. But there are certain things that come in pretty handy and have a huge demand in the market.

There is one brand that has survived for decades providing something as simple as ‘Zippers’. Founded in 1939, the YKK Group (Yoshida Kōgyō Kabushiki Gaisha) is a Japanese group of manufacturing companies. They are the world’s largest zipper manufacturer.

If you haven’t noticed there are small initials YKK on every zipper in your clothes. The brand also produces other fastening products, architectural products, plastic hardware, and industrial machinery.

YKK’s Origin & Evolution

The brand has its roots pre World War II and was then known as San-es Shokai and was founded by Tadao Yoshida in Higashi Nihonbashi, Tokyo in January 1934.

It was in 1938 that San-es Shokai was renamed Yoshida Kogyosho and soon after WWII was underway in 1939. YKK went into automation of the zipper-making process in 1950 after it purchased a chain machine from the U.S.

This helped it enter an all-new market of zippers made by machine keeping it at par with its competitors and helping the brand improve its quality.

The brand soon expanded and established its presence internationally with its first overseas manufacturing unit in New Zealand in 1959. Just a year later, YKK opened up in the US.

As the company grew, it brought every step of manufacturing in-house, including smelting brass and dyeing cloth. But a major expansion happened in 1961 when the product line was diversified to include aluminum products for buildings.

Focus On Sustainability

YKK has been a step ahead of its competitors when it comes to sustainability.  It started providing a yearly financial, social, and environmental report in 2017. In 2021 the company reported that it invested 2.5 billion Yen (U.S. $23 million) on sustainability-related investments and made a pledge to be carbon neutral by 2050.

The 2021 report also stated the company’s recycling rate (82.3%) and CO² emissions (down 20% from the 2018 baseline).

Currently, the global market for zippers is estimated to be $11.7 billion and YKK makes almost half of all zippers in the world. The brand is spread in 71 countries,558 locations, and 111 companies.

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