Japan's Nutraceuticals Today : Ingredients to Watch in Japan for 2004

By Paul Yamaguchi

Ingredients to Watch in Japan for 2004

Pointing in the Same Direction
Needs for supplements are different from one country to another mostly because of diet, climate and lifestyle. These differences create different problems and require different treatments. In my March article in this section I discussed the sales disparity of supplements between Japan and the US. Among the top ten best selling supplements in both countries, there was only one ingredient in common: amino acid. It was number nine on the best selling list in Japan and number five in the U.S. I believe current trends indicate that needs and treatments in both countries are pointing in the same direction. In the near future the top ten lists of both countries may become quite similar.

Keep Your Eyes on MHLW
I spotted three ingredients that are emerging in the Japanese market. Ironically, they are all “Western” ingredients and already have a sizable market in the U.S.These ingredients are emerging because the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare (MHLW) has recently deregulated these ingredients from the drug category to the food category.After just a few years of deregulation, some have already created over $100 million markets and they continue to grow. Some are just starting to become recognized by consumers and may fly off the shelves in the near future.

MSM (Methyl-Sulfonyl-Methane) is a naturally-occurring sulfur compound found in our bodies. In October 2001, MHLW deregulated MSM from a drug to a food. After almost 2 years of deregulation, about 20 companies are producing MSM-related products and the market is now just under $30 million. MSM improves many health problems including allergies, asthma, skin problems, inflammation and stomach and digestive problems, but its most common application is for joint treatments, where it has similar applications as glucosamine and chondroitin. MSM comes in many forms: simple capsules, cream, gel and drinks.

Since Japanese people tend to sit on the floor, more joint problems occur. The growing aging population also contributes to the potential growth of anti-inflammatory treatment products such as MSM. Chlorella Kogyo (Tokyo) and Toyo Shinyaku (Saga) are two major distributors of MSM. Both companies are supplied by the Washington-based major MSM supplier Cardinal Nutrition (Vancouver). In the next 3 years the market for MSM may grow to over $100 million in Japan.

L-carnitine was deregulated by the MHLW in December 2002. One and a half years later, about 10 ingredient suppliers are in the market. Some have started to produce the ingredient in Japan; NisshinPharma (Tokyo), HamariMedicines (Osaka) andKyowa Wellness (Tokyo) are among them. Swiss-based company Lonza Japan (Tokyo) is the major supplier from the west. L-carnitine provides relief for a variety of health problems, including cardiovascular conditions and diabetes. But its most well-known usage is for sports nutrition because studies show that L-carnitine releases energy from fat and transports fatty acids into the power cells. L-carnitine is limited to diet and sports nutrition in Japan. Several major food companies are introducing L-carnitine diet drinks and foods.Retail sales of L-Carnitine are about $25 million and may grow to $80 million or more by 2006 if usage widens to cardiovascular and other health applications.

Coenzyme Q 10
Since the deregulation of Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) in March 2001, the market has grown at a steady pace of 200 percent per year. The Health Industry News reported in January that the CoQ10 market has reached $100 million. It is the fastest growing ingredient since glucosamine. There are over 150 suppliers in the market and the numbers continue to grow. Nisshin Pharma (Tokyo) is a pioneer in the field and a leading supplier. The company supplies 2/3 of the total 10 ton CoQ 10 ingredient supply last year.CoQ10’s end market is mostly supplements and available potency is from 30mg to 50 mg per serving, which is relatively low.The future of the CoQ10 market is bright if the price comes down 20 to 30 percent. Because of its high cost, companies are blending other ingredients such as DHA, EPA or vitamins to keep prices down and attract a wider audience. Presently, CoQ10 functions are limited to energy production and as an antioxidant. If studies find more beneficial usages of CoQ10, it will widen its usage for foods and likely perpetuate its present growth. The market may reach 200 million by 2006.

The growth of future ingredients depends on MHLW’s deregulation activities. Following are 3 deregulated ingredients from MHLW as of April 2004.

Alpha lipoic acid (ALA): It may prevent or treat age-related diseases, from heart disease and stroke to diabetes and cataracts.

D-chiro inositol:May helps insulin to function more efficiently.

Ferulic acid: For sports nutrition.


Source of information for this article: The Health Industry News, Health Food Journal, Supplement Functional Foods and others.

Paul Yamaguchi is president of Paul Yamaguchi & Associates, Inc., Tarrytown, NY. His company publishes a number of Japanese nutrition market reports, including Nutraceutical Japan 2003, Nutritional Supplement Japan 2003, Functional Foods and FOSHU (Foods for Specified Health Use) Japan 2003. For details and information on the reports, visit: www.functionalfoodsjapan.com or contact Paul at [email protected]
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