The products, which are manufactured at Asahi's Tochigi Sakura Factory in Japan and imported to Vietnam, feature four types of milk formula under Asahi's brand of infant and maternal nutrition, Wakodo: Step 1 formula for infants up to one year old, Step 2 formula for children aged one to three, Step 3 formula for children aged three and older, and Wakodo Mom, for pregnant and lactating mothers.
Tailored specifically to meet the needs of Vietnamese infants and young children, the three infant and child nutrition products contain galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS) to improve intestinal environment and stool consistency.
They also contain DHA and amino acids to support brain and visual acuity development, and reduced levels of β-lactoglobulin, a protein that is difficult to digest.
An Asahi spokesman told NutraIngredients-Asia: "Vietnamese mothers tend to have problems dealing with their children's digestive issues, like constipation and diarrhoea, and β-lactoglobulin can make these issues worse. Furthermore, β-lactoglobulin levels in most baby formula sold in Vietnam are not reduced."
He added: "For all the products, we used the same or increased levels of DHA compared to Japanese products, to meet Vietnamese mothers' demands.
"The Wakodo Mom formula also contains GOS and DHA, so pregnant and nursing mothers can ensure their babies have support for better intestinal health and proper brain development.
"In addition, it contains folic acid, which is also essential for babies' healthy development during pregnancy."
At the same time, Asahi has used its proprietary technologies to make the powdered formula dissolve more quickly, as well as to form less froth when mixed with water.
Since launching in Vietnam in 2017, Wakodo has enjoyed steady sales, and the Japanese firm believes this new range will be no exception.
Asahi-Nutifood is collaborating with over 200 sales agencies in Vietnam to get the new range of products stocked in as many mother and baby specialty stores and dairy outlets as possible, with an initial focus on Saigon and Hanoi.
The company is also planning an "aggressive advertising and in-store promotion campaign" to raise public awareness of the products and boost sales.
While Asahi is confident of the performance its infant and maternal nutrition products in Vietnam, it has decided to take a more conservative approach in terms of further APAC expansion.
The spokesman said, "At the moment, we are not planning to launch in other South East Asian countries. Now is not the time to increase our sales drastically (in other parts of the APAC region), so we will not be opening our sales plan, at least over the next year or so. We believe it's important to focus on the Vietnamese market for now.”
Citing Euromonitor research published in 2017, he said Vietnam's infant nutrition market was valued at an estimated US$14m. In addition to Vietnamese consumers having a preference for Japanese products, this was a positive indicator for Asahi.
"Asahi and Nutifood co-developed these products by utilising Asahi's relevant know-how accumulated in Japan over the last century, and Nutifood's insight into nutritional intake trends in Vietnam.
"We believe these are ideal products for infants and mothers in Vietnam, and we are glad we can contribute to the health and proper development of babies and children."