WATCH: Can saffron star in Japan? Supplement firm’s CEO on his personal mission to promote cognitive health benefits

By Gary Scattergood

- Last updated on GMT

Japanese consumers have little knowledge of saffron - either as a food ingredient or a supplement - let alone its potential cognitive health benefits. But one man is on a mission to change that.

Small But Spicy CEO Tom Watanabe says he knows first-hand the benefits of saffron supplementation after experiencing severe depression himself.

He is now importing the extract – affron – from Spanish supplier PharmActive, and is selling the product as a supplement ingredient, with a branded line of goods, named Musubi, to follow soon.

We recently spoke with Tom when he visited our HQ in Singapore where he discussed his personal story, his business plans, and the growing wealth of evidence behind the cognitive health benefits of saffron.

A recent study published in Complementary Therapies in Medicine​ found that affron increased mood, reduced anxiety and managed stress without side effects in people self-reporting low mood.

Analysis indicated a significant decrease in negative mood and symptoms related to stress and anxiety at a 28mg/day dose (with a significant difference between 28mg/day and placebo on the POMS Total Mood Disturbance scale, p<0.001, d=-1.10),”​ noted the paper.

Sales success

Despite their being little consumer knowledge of saffron in Japan – and a cultural tendency not to discuss cognitive health benefits, Watanabe says he is confident of achieving sales success and growing the business across the region on the back of such studies.

Part of this stems from his past experience; his firm was the first to launch acai products into the Japan market, with the ingredient rapidly becoming a popular superfood and supplement.

The company also has extensive experience as a contract manufacturer, formulator and distributor.

“We believe in the potential of saffron extract because we know it works,”​ he said. “I feel that this is my calling as well as my business.”

Watch the video to hear more from Tom about his saffron strategy for Japan.

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