Kewpie — best known for its flagship mayonnaise products — also has an extensive fine chemicals division operating across the food, cosmetics and pharmaceutical industries.
Speaking to us at last week’s HI Japan show, the firm’s Yuji Sato said 2015’s Food With Function Claims (FFC) had led to a wave of finished product innovation.
"In Japan, we are seeing sales increasing, especially for products with FFC claims," he said.
"We now have our ingredients in around 60 products — not all of which make FFC claims — but there is no doubt the new regulation has been very good for us."
So far, more than 1,200 products have been launched with FFC claims, as manufacturers seek to capitalise on more relaxed regulations after decades of stringent Food for Specified Health Uses (FOSHU) rules.
Sato said the firm had been able to benefit because it had built up a wealth of clinical data around the efficacy of its Hyabest products.
Most recently, a study published in Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology found it may improve the 'lustre' of the skin and reduce wrinkles.
The researchers recruited 60 Japanese men and women aged between 22 and 59.
They were divided into three groups and given either a placebo or Hyabest (A) or Hyabest (S) LF-P via oral supplementation.
Both Hyabest groups showed a better level of the whole sulcus (grooves in the skin) to volume ratio, wrinkle area ratio, and wrinkle volume ratio, compared to placebo and baseline values. However, only the 300 k (Hyabest (S) LF-P) group showed significantly diminished wrinkles compared with the placebo group.
Additional information about lustre and suppleness from a questionnaire indicated that both improved in all groups after 12 weeks, compared to baseline values. However, lustre in both HA groups increased more than the placebo groups, said the researchers.
Sato said the firm was now seeing sales taking off in the US. It already supplies to Jarrow and Natural Factors, among others.
"The US, along with Japan, are our top two core markets," he added.
In the food space in Japan, the product is used in beverages, yogurt, chewing gum, confectionery, hotpot ready meals, and noodles.
"While not all of these can make health claims, consumer are able to join the dots," he said.
However, for Japan's ageing population, the firm recommends supplementation via oral consumption.
"In addition to its beauty impact, a 2016 study published in Nutrition Journal concluded that oral hyaluronan helps relieve knee pain. As Japan’s population continues to age, we see ongoing potential for these products."