Japan's Nutraceuticals Today : The New Source of Energy Discovered in Japan

薬食同源 Japan’s Nutraceuticals Today

By Paul Yamaguchi

The New Source of Energy Discovered in Japan

Hot Energy Drinks
One of the hot subjects in the beverage industry the past few years has been the energy drink. As recently as 10 years ago, no one knew this sector even existed. It is now an almost $1 billion industry in the US. If you visit www.bevnet.com, a website for the beverage industry, you’ll find over 100 energy drinks listed. In Japan, energy drinks are almost legendary and the market continues to grow.

Japanese Energy Sources Come in a Small Bottle
The energy drink market developed in Japan in the 1960’s. One of the leading energy drink brands, Lipovitan D from Taisho Pharmaceuticals, (www.taisho.co.jp/lipod) was first launched in 1962. Since then it has sold over 20 billion bottles in Japan and after 42 years, it is still the number one energy drink brand. It generates $800 million a year in sales, and is now marketed in over 15 countries, mostly in Asia and the Middle East. Lipovitan D’s active ingredient is the same as the one used in many other energy drinks marketed in the West today: taurine. Taisho’s website claims that they have been working on taurine since 1941. Lipovitan D contains 1000mg to 2000mg of taurine, depending on which of the 15 different Lipovitan D’s you choose from. They come with a small 100 ml bottle. (Red Bull contains 1000mg of taurine in a 250 ml can).

Taurine is still classified as a drug under the Japanese Pharmaceutical Affairs Law but many tonic-type energy drinks are considered quasi-drugs (categorized somewhere between drugs and foods but require approval from the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare). They can be sold in drug stores, food and C-stores and even through vending machines, just like sodas and candy. The market for quasi-drug tonic energy drinks in Japan is a $2.5 billion industry. Traditionally, energy tonics were consumed mainly by men, but companies are now targeting women with low calorie versions and are introducing vitamin fortified versions for children. There are over 300 other energy tonic drinks that are marketed in Japan. Their energy sources vary, with companies, besides taurine, using ingredients from aged ginseng to snapping turtle extract and even formulating with poisonous snake extract. In addition to energy tonic drinks, there is a $600 million amino-acid sport drink market. (Functional Foods & FOSHU Japan 2004) Clearly, the Japanese are energy-hungry people.

A New Energy Source for the Next Generation?
In the last few months another energy source entered the spotlight --soybean peptide.

Soy is the most widely used botanical for foods and supplements such as pre- and post-menopausal women, but it is used for many other applications including lowering cholesterol and in sports beverages. Soybean peptide (SP) is a bonding of multiple amino acids and it absorbs in the intestinal tract faster and more efficiently than amino acids and it seems to help the body regain lost energy quickly and may produce energy faster than other amino acids. SP has been shown to take only 20 minutes to absorb in the body, so those wanting to regain lost energy will take soy peptide within 30 minutes after the energy loss or one hour before sleeping. SP has also been studied for diet, enhancement of brain function and beautifying the skin.

(http://www.daizupeptide.jp) (http://spaspa.jp/peptide.html).

Since this study was published, several food and beverage companies have begun launching new products. Coca-Cola Japan introduced PowerAde, sports drink (http://www.powerade.jp/) that is powered with 4000 mg of soybean peptide. (PowerAde marketed in the US contains vitamin B’s and is different from the Japanese PowerAde). Calpis (http://www.calpis.co.jp) introduced soybean peptide with lactic acid bacteria. Toraku, Fuji Oil (http://www.fujioil.co.jp/) introduced the more powerful “The Peptide,” with 8,000 mg of SP. SP is not only formulated into beverages but also into supplements. Wellness Japan has introduced Soybean Peptide BCCA.

Fuji Oil, a Japanese leading soybean product manufacturer, has just announced that it will invest $30 million into a new soybean peptide production plant in China; a joint venture with Chinese company, Tianjin.

In the sports beverage category, amino acids have dominated the market for almost 5 years in Japan. But there’s a new amino acid making the rounds that sure to entertain the market for the next few years.

Paul Yamaguchi is president of Paul Yamaguchi & Associates, Inc., Tarrytown, NY. His company publishes a number of Japanese nutrition market reports, including Nutraceuticals Japan 2003, Nutritional Supplement Japan 2003. His latest report is 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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