Japan’s Nutraceuticals Today - COQ10 Update

薬食同源 Japan’s Nutraceuticals Today

By Paul Yamaguchi

Since the Ministry of Health Labor and Welfare (MHLW) deregulated CoQ10 from drug use to food in 2001, consumption of CoQ10 has skyrocketed. There are several reasons for the increase, but the most notable is the success of cosmetics giant, Shiseido’s Q10 AA brand. Shiseido used its enormous marketing power to promote CoQ10 for cosmetic use for women. Their Q10AA product line includes supplements to skin cream to drinks, all promoting beauty to their customers. The bright orange color theme has almost become synonymous with CoQ10 in Japan.

Shiseido’s success has triggered other manufacturers to join the Japanese market for CoQ10. While the US market uses CoQ10 mostly to treat cardiovascular and Parkinson’s disease, CoQ10 is used mostly in cosmetics, beauty and skincare in Japan. Other Japanese usages include applications as an antioxidant and for anti-aging but they are developing at a slower rate. In 2005, the market for CoQ10 products had reached the $150 million mark with 35 metric tons of raw material consumed in Japan.

There are only a half dozen major producers of CoQ10 in the world (four are Japanese) and the sudden increase in Japanese demand has created a worldwide CoQ10 shortage. The four major Japanese producers are Kaneka, Nisshin Pharma, Asahikasei Pharma and Mitubishi Gas. These companies are expanding their production capacity to meet world demand of raw material. Kaneka is building a new plant in Pasadena, Texas capable of producing 100 metric tons of CoQ10 a year. In addition, Kyowa Hakko has announced that it will produce CoQ10 in Japan and plans to capture 20% of the world market. Overall, production of CoQ10 has doubled in 3 years. By 2007, the world supply of the raw material is expected to reach 300 metric tons and by 2009 it will be 450 metric tons. Most Japanese manufactures are focusing on serving their market in the US and Asian market. By spring next year, the Chinese FDA may announce that it will allow the marketing of CoQ10.

As CoQ10 production has increased, domestic consumption of CoQ10 has leveled off because consumers have experienced some disappointment with CoQ10 products for cosmetic use. Some suspect that low dosages are the problem, but nonetheless, the CoQ10 market has slowed down in Japan. Confusion regarding maximum safe daily dosage is also causing confusion among consumers. The Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare (MHLW) rules state that the maximum medical usage of CoQ10 is 30mg a day. Therefore, they recommend that supplement dosages should not exceed that amount. But in the market, there are products that contain 70 or even 100 mg or more of CoQ10. In the US, for Parkinson’s disease, some recommend 1,200 mg a day with no serious side effects reported. On this issue, MHLW seems obliged to follow drug dosage guidelines but at the same time it is showing some flexibility for the supplement industry.

Last August, MHLW’s Food Safety Commission announced that it is difficult to set a maximum safe dosage of CoQ10, and the commission concluded that manufacturers should take responsibility for setting safe dosage levels of CoQ10. This announcement created more confusion not only for the industry but for consumers as well. According to The Health Industry News, consumption of raw material was down 6% from a year ago. CoQ10 contract manufactures like AMS Life Science reported significant sales reductions and cite the confusion regarding safe dosages as the reason why. Kaneka Life Science division, a major CoQ10 producer, reported that this year, sales were down 17% and net profit was down 46% compared to the same period last year. The increase in production and decrease in consumption has created a CoQ10 glut domestically.

Finally, in October 2006, the Japan Health & Nutrition Food Association (JHNFA) announced that they would recommend 300 mg as the safe daily dosage. The industry hopes this announcement will end the confusion and restore confidence among consumers regarding CoQ10. The industry hopes that in 2007, domestic consumption will increase 3% to 34 metric tons.

Paul Yamaguchi & Associates, Inc. is a consulting firm in Tarrytown, NY focusing on the Japanese nutrition market. His office publishes a number of Japanese nutrition market reports, including Functional Foods Japan 2006 and Nutritional Supplements Japan 2005.

For details and information on the reports, visit: http://www.functionalfoodsjapan.com/ or contact Paul at [email protected]
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