Japan’s Nutraceuticals Today : Tokyo Health Industry Show Overview

薬食同源 Japan’s Nutraceuticals Today

By Paul Yamaguchi

The Tokyo Health Industry show is one of the largest health shows in Japan. According to the show’s sponsor, CMP Japan, this year’s attendance was the largest in its history: 47,000 people for the 3 day event. The exhibit floor was mainly divided into two sections, one for health and nutrition, the other for health & beauty with a total of over 500 domestic companies and over 40 overseas companies. I thought the Health Industry Show was a good experience and a chance for anyone interested in the Japanese nutrition, health and beauty market to learn a great deal about the business environment there.

My overall impression of the show floor, especially on the supplements side, was a lack of excitement. It may have been because there were no new ingredients or product introductions - it seemed to be just continuation of the last show. Two ingredients that people were talking about was the shortage in the CoQ10 supply and the rising demand for Alpha Lipoic Acid. Since cosmetic giant Shiseido’s success with its CoQ10 cosmetic nutrition line, everyone has jumped on the bandwagon and this has created a shortage. I stopped at one booth promoting its line of CoQ10 beauty products and was told that they are temporarily halting production because of the shortage. I spoke with a sales representative of Nisshin Pharma, one of the major producers of CoQ10, and was told that the shortage is real and will not improve anytime soon. They are at maximum production capacity but “can’t meet the demands.”

Another highly-visible ingredient was Alpha Lipoic Acid, (ALA), or Aruha-ripo-sun, in Japanese. ALA is also formulated into cosmetic products. ALA plus CoQ10 is the most popular combination in the market.

The nutrition industry seemed mature or perhaps it is just taking a little rest for the next big wave to arrive. I thought the show was a little quieter this year compared to previous shows.

While I was strolling the aisles, I noticed that there were more foreign booths than at any shows I have attended in the past, especially from Korea and China. In addition, there were over 15 non-Asian companies were participating this year. Both Korea and China are emerging markets and presented not only traditional herbal products but also highly scientific nutraceuticals and marine products.

The functional food section was more exciting and innovative than the supplements’. Black beans, Okinawa citric acid beverage, kale and green vegetable juice, RTD tea and water products were the most visible in the floor. They are not particularly new, but this year, they added a little twist by formulating their priducts with vitamins, minerals and even Co Q 10, lutein, DHA, EPA and French pine bark for a new approach to attract new and younger consumers. My impression of the functional food market in Japan is that it is alive and exciting.

Another topic I heard often, was the new expanded FOSHU (Foods for Specified Health Use) regulation that went effect just 30 days ago. It seems that the Japanese government is opening the area of FOSHU for only well established ingredients that are formulated in the products, and they still hold a tight grip on an approval process for new ingredients. We’ll see more of the ‘sameness’, rather than truly innovative products. D the high cost and time consuming process, only larger corporations can afford to have products approved as FOSHU.

Overall, the show exhibited depth, variety and the power of the $26 billion Japanese nutraceutical market.

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 and Functional Foods and FOSHU Japan 2004, Market & Product Report. For details and information on the reports, visit: www.functionalfoodsjapan.com or contact Paul at [email protected]

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