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Japan’s Nutraceuticals Today : It’s a Six Hundred Million Dollar Market - Yet Still Unknown In The West

薬食同源 Japan’s Nutraceuticals Today

By Paul Yamaguchi

One of Japan’s largest functional foods categories still unknown in the West is the health vinegar market. Health vinegars have been some of the most widely accepted products and the category is one of its fastest growing markets over the past few years in Japan.

According to a recent article from The Health Industry News (HIN), a leading health industry newspaper in Japan, the health vinegar market is set to reach 60 billion yen, or about $545 million and is growing 15 percent per year. In the $4 billion functional beverage category, the health vinegar market is now the fourth largest, following sports, water and health tea drinks. Health tea and health vinegar are the driving force of Japanese functional beverage market. Since sports and water are showing a slowdown in sales, health tea and health vinegar are supporting this category’s growth.

There are several types of health vinegar drinks; ingredients, manufacturing process and region are the main differentiations between products. Kurosu, Moromisu and Khozu are the three major kinds.

Kurosu means black vinegar in English. It is made from rice, barley and sometimes brown rice and fermented in a ceramic pot for 3 to 6 months; and frequently as long as a year. When it ages, it becomes a brownish, darker colored liquid, hence the name “black vinegar.” It is rich in citric acid, vitamins and minerals. According to HIN, the kurosu market is the largest among the three at about $227 million. There are hundreds of kurosu manufacturers, mostly in the southern part of Japan in Kagoshima. Sakamoto Jozo ( has 70 percent of the kurosu market. Another kurosu manufacturer, Marushige’s kurosu ( is fortified with oligosacchrides to regulate gastrointestinal conditions and has been granted FOSHU (Foods for Specified Health Use) status.

Moromisu is originally from the island of Okinawa in southern Japan. Moromisu is a fermented aged vinegar made from moromi, a by-product of Awamori, Okinawa’s traditional sake. It is rich in citric acid, amino acid, vitamins and minerals. There are over 20 moromisu manufacturers in Okinawa alone. Ishikawa shuzoujo ( is Okinawa’s largest moromisu supplier. Marukin-chuyu ( is one of major suppliers outside of Okinawa. HIN reports the market for moromisu was about $180 million in 2004.

Khozu is a traditional Chinese vinegar made out of mixture of sticky rice, rice husks and sugar aged for 6 months to a year, sometimes longer. It is rich in amino acids, vitamins and minerals. Most khozu is imported from China as concentrate and then processed and bottled in Japan. Saishunkan ( is a leader for imported khozu. Yazuya ( is the leader for the distribution and marketing of khozu. Yazuya has 60 percent of its sales in this market. Besides drinks, products in this category also come in capsules and claim to be good for diet, intestinal and sports performance too. The market for khozu is about $150 million in total.

There are other vinegar drinks too including a red vinegar drink made from purple potato and believed to contain a high volume of anthocyanins, and Papyrus plant vinegar and apple vinegar drink are also a growing part of this health vinegar market.

The health vinegar markets were started locally as traditional foods, but have now become more like national products. Major corporations like, Takara (, Yakult (, Funcl ( have all launched health vinegar products in the last few years. And as for the supplement category, multi-formulations like kurosu and lutein, kurosu and L-carnitine and popular Co Q10 formulation products are all available from Nihon Vinegar Bottlers (

Some of the known health benefits claimed for health vinegars include blood thinning, lowered blood pressure, improved blood circulation, lowered cholesterol and improved energy levels. Women drink it as a cosmeceutical product. Several scientific studies have been published in Japan about health vinegars in the past few years. The most recent study is from Kagoshima University and concludes that taking kurosu for 30 days led to an improvement in sustaining energy levels during physical activity. (HIN) People who drink health vinegar believe a small amount helps maintain good health and is a good way to maintain a healthy body.

What does health vinegar taste like? As one might expect, it tastes like … vinegar, but a little sweeter.

Have a safe and healthy Memorial Day weekend.

Paul Yamaguchi is president of Paul Yamaguchi & Associates, Inc., Tarrytown, NY. USA. His company publishes a number of Japanese nutrition market reports. His latest report is Nutritional Supplement Japan 2005, Inside of the $11.1 billion Japanese dietary supplement market. Other reports include the Functional Foods and FOSHU Japan 2004, Market & Product Report. For details and information on the reports, visit: or contact Paul at [email protected]

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