Hakko, in Japanese, translates to 'fermentation.' It's the process by which Kyowa Hakko has been creating health ingredients for use in the dietary-supplements, foods, cosmetics and pharmaceutical industries since 1949. The US branch opened in 1969, with offices in New York and California.
The company offers more than 50 amino acids and related compounds, including D-amino acids and branch-chain amino acids, as well as nucleic acids, bioproducts and other chemicals, all created through bioprocessing using micro-organisms. The company has always been a major active-ingredients supplier in the sports-nutrition/weight-loss area, says director of marketing Karen Todd, but in recent years, it has found a growing demand for its branded ingredients among ageing baby boomers in North America. "They fit their needs, ranging from brain and immune function to skin and joint lubrication and moisturisation," Todd says.
"Amino acids are much more than just building blocks of protein. They have an increasing role in anti-ageing. This approach has a very long history in Japan. We see this as being one of the largest areas that will translate over to the US market." Branding ingredients continues to be a key strategy for Kyowa Hakko. "Our products, and especially our brands, are associated with high-quality, science-based ingredients, and it is important that a consumer can easily locate them and know what they are getting," Todd says.
Brands include Cognizin, Setria, Lumistor and Resilen, and target the importance of protecting consumers' minds as well as their bodies, Todd says. Cognizin Citoline was the winner of the 2003 NutrAward. It is a multifunctional brain-health ingredient that supports brain performance by enhancing metabolism, and healthy brain activity by increasing adenosine 5-triphosphate and acetylcholine levels in the brain. It will also increase the synthesis of cell-membrane phospholipids, Todd says, and the synthesis of brain membranes is associated with improvements in verbal learning capacity and overall healthy brain activity.
The company supports its claims with a strong commitment to scientific research. According to the company website, Kyowa Hakko currently holds some 2,500 patents, and more that 1,400 employees are involved in research. One of the latest studies Todd points to is from Harvard University. Presented in November of last year at the Society for Neuroscience in San Diego, California, the study suggests that citicoline may provide the brain with the important chemical fuel needed to aid focus and productivity. Cognizin increased 5-triphosphate (ATP), the available energy supply, in the region of the brain that sustains the ability to pay attention; make good decisions; and provide a sense of direction, enabling one to get work done.
Another important brand in Kyowa Hakko's portfolio, Setria Glutathione, is a tripeptide (three amino acids: glutamine acid, cysteine and glycine). "We know that glutathione absorption is more effectively absorbed than the individual amino acids, and thus should be replenished every morning," Todd says. "It is the most important antioxidant for your body (quantity and function). Glutathione functions as an antioxidant, but it also is important in the regeneration of vitamins C and E and liver detoxification." Todd says Kyowa is creating a consumer campaign to differentiate Setria from other antioxidants, branding it as Setria Glutathione, "The Morning Antioxidant."
As for new products, Todd says the company recently introduced a dipeptide, Sustamine Alanyl Glutamine, for the pharmaceutical/media industries, and will soon introduce this to the dietary-supplements and food/beverage markets. Sustamine is a dipeptide of the two amino acids L-alamine and L-glutamine. "Potent aminos are tricky, tastewise," she says. "The flavour must be masked. But we discovered that through combining certain aminos into dipeptides, we can improve taste profile, as well as increase the stability. Sustamine is ready to drink."