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Soiken links up with drink maker to develop health drink


Japanese biotech firm Soiken signs joint research agreement with a beverage manufacturer to drill into the established functional food market.

With Japanese consumers spending an average of $195 per year on functional foods, almost four times that of Europeans, opportunities are ripe to spear the booming $5.1 billion Japanese market.

According to reports in the Japanese press the two companies are aiming to develop a specified health food that helps improve vascular endothelial functions.

After conducting clinical trials in 2005, the partners will market a new product in 2006 or later.

Soiken declined to specify the details of the agreement, including the name of the partner company.

A recent report from Japanese firm Paul Yamaguchi & Associates estimate that since 1990, over 5500 new functional foods were introduced in the country - an average of about 400 a year.

Both the regulated FOSHU (Foods for Specified Health Use) market and the unregulated market are growing at great speed. The former is now worth $5.1 billion, up 37.6 per cent from 2001, while the latter has grown by nine per cent to reach $11 billion. The number of FOSHU approved products has surged - up 45 per cent from 274 in 2001 to 398 in 2003.

The unregulated market is led by functional beverages ($4 billion) and more specifically by sports beverages, which now have a market share worth $1.6 billion. And the first functional food has far from disappeared, with probiotics, prebiotics and fermented milk the second largest unregulated category.

Despite their obvious tendancy to want to eat healthily, the Japanese do not have the same propensity to dietary supplements. While, the functional foods market grew 11.9 per cent between 1995 and 2003, supplements increased by only 7.5 per cent to be worth $9 billion.