Functional foods mainstream in Japan

The $16 billion functional foods market in Japan remains one of the strongest in the world, according to a new report by research firm Paul Yamaguchi & Associates. Since 1990, more than 5,500 functional foods have been introduced in Japan, and Japanese consumers spent five per cent of their total food expenditures on these products.

?Functional foods have become a part of the fabric of Japanese?s healthy living ? they have become mainstream,? concluded the report, titled ?Functional Foods & FOSHU Japan 2004; Market & Product Report.?

The Japanese spend $126 per person annually on functional foods, compared to $67.9 per person in the US, $51.2 per person for Europeans and an estimated $3.20 per person in other Asian countries.

On any given day, there are 1,500 to 2,000 functional foods on the market and 400 of them qualify for FOSHU status — which allows them to use health claims.

The report explores the tremendous growth of the $5.1 billion FOSHU market — a 37.6 per cent increase from 2001 to 2003. The number of FOSHU-approved products increased 45 per cent over the same time period. This segment is dominated by foods for gastrointestinal health ($3.2 billion with 193 approved products) and foods for cardiovascular health ($94 million with 52 approved products). Foods for hypertension, diabetes and mineral absorption are also top sellers.

It?s a trend that is likely to continue. ?Proposed new FOSHU regulations may increase the sales and number of approved products to unprecedented numbers,? the report stated.

The report also examines the $11 billion unregulated functional foods market, which is dominated by the beverage category at $4 billion. The popularity of amino acid water propelled much of the recent growth in this category. This is followed by the probiotics and fermented milk drink category at $2.4 billion.

Functional foods continue to dominate the Japanese marketplace over dietary supplements. From 1995 to 2003, the average annual growth rate for functional foods was 11.9 per cent; for dietary supplements, it was only 7.5 per cent.

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