Probiotics and convenience: Japanese firm launches 'on-the-go' functional products

By Cheryl Tay

- Last updated on GMT

According to the company, consumers have responded well to the products, and it expects them to become even more popular over the next few years.
According to the company, consumers have responded well to the products, and it expects them to become even more popular over the next few years.

Related tags Probiotics Japan Lactobacillus

Japanese firm House Wellness Foods is tapping into the functional food sector's growing trend of healthy convenience with a new range of products featuring its patented lactic acid bacteria strain, heat-killed Lactobacillus plantarum L-137 (HK L-137).

The products are designed to provide on-the-go nutrition in convenient formats, and include a yogurt-flavoured functional beverage and energy gel pack, a flavourless soluble powder that can be added to drinks and soups, instant Japanese curry, instant noodles, a strawberry-flavoured packaged dessert, and caramel-flavoured corn snacks.

According to the company, consumers have responded well to the products, and it expects them to become even more popular over the next few years.

GM Kotaro Soga told NutraIngredients-Asia​: "Our target demographics are men and women in their 20s to 40s, especially when it comes to the drink, soluble powder and energy gel pack. We believe the rest of the products are suitable for male and female adult consumers of all ages.

"The entire range of HK L-137 products is meant to support overall quality of life and help customers maintain a healthy physical condition, and we chose these formats in particular because we want people to be able to consume HK L-137 easily in their daily meals."

Immunobiotic innovation

L-137 is in fact closely related to House Wellness Foods' bestselling ingredient Immuno-LP20, with Soga describing them as "more than 90% the same"​.

He said, "We have been selling our immunobiotic product, Immuno-LP20, in China and North America as an ingredient for use in health supplements for about 10 years. With HK L-137, we finally developed the ingredient for functional food and beverage applications."

Indeed, for almost 30 years, the firm has invested the majority of its research efforts into finding evidence that daily consumption of HK L-137 can support and even enhance the body's ability to fight infection, and improve its overall physical condition.

The company's researchers focused on the fermentation process that had for years enabled traditional South East Asian cultures to preserve food for extended periods without the need for refrigeration, concluding that lactobacilli ​was the key to preserving organic matter for consumption.

In this way, the cellular health maintenance properties of lactobacilli​ could be conferred via consumption to living organisms.

House Wellness Foods proudly claims that Immuno-LP20 was a pioneer of sorts in immunobiotics, which combine the everyday immune system benefits of probiotics with an enhanced ability to stave off infection and support long-term immune health.

In 2013, an RCT​ published in the Journal of Nutritional Science​ reported that the oral intake of HK L-137 could prevent and ameliorate upper respiratory tract infection, as well as the onset of allergic reactions.

The process of heat-killing the bacilli​ stabilises L-137, thereby maintaining its potency upon consumption. Its bioavailability after consumption is attributed to its unique ability to withstand being broken down by gastric fluids, which allows it to remain effective all the way down to the lower bowel.

At home and abroad

While the HK L-137 range of products has enjoyed domestic success, House Wellness Foods has no plans at the moment to export it.

Soga said, "With HK-L-137, we want to focus on the Japanese market for now, and continue selling Immuno-LP20 in overseas markets.

"The market for probiotics and even postbiotics has been increasing over the past several years, and we believe there are big possibilities in the APAC region, where we are aiming to bring Immuno-LP20."

House Wellness Foods' projected global sales are expected to reach US$62m (¥7bn) by 2020 and US$88.7m (¥10bn) by 2023.

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