The firm saw a 3% growth in sales from last year to this year in Taiwan – its second largest market – after reaping the benefits of the country’s dual health claims system, Dr Yoshihiro Nakao, vice-president and head of Scientific Research and Application told NutraIngredients-Asia.
The two health claims are namely 1) to speed up the recovery after strenuous exercise and 2) to improve the immune system.
According to Suntory - the parent company's latest financial results, the health supplement division saw a 5% yoy drop in revenue, and a reason was due to "core brand weakness in Essence of Chicken and Bird's Nest."
Nakao revealed that BRANDS'S Suntory was on track to gathering more scientific evidence to gain consumer trust crucial for advancing sales growth.
“Now that health claims regulations are getting stricter, once we are given the approval to label the health claims, the functions of the product become more reliable, because they are proven by science, and we can communicate the health benefits of our products more accurately to more consumers.
“Our new direction in the recent years is to focus on the clinical studies in order to apply for health claims,” he said.
Hoping to emulate the growth in Taiwan, the firm registered for functional health claims in Thailand – its biggest market which contributed 71.4% to its entire essence of chicken business last year. Most the business comes from convenience stores, where consumers can conveniently purchase for quick fatigue relief.
The registration which took place in June, was supported by a clinical trial and a meta-analysis.
The latter, which was published in May in Nutritional Neuroscience, found that daily consumption of the essence of chicken could improve working memory.
“A systematic review is the most powerful document. With that, we can apply for claims in almost all countries,” he said, adding that the application result was expected to be released in about a year’s time.
Finding new functions
Part of the firm’s scientific research on the essence of chicken is to discover more new functions of the product.
“We have a lot of plans but it is a bit too early to disclose. We are conducting several research right now, but they are not published yet,” Nakao said.
He declined to provide details but revealed that the firm has been conducting two studies to find out novel functions of the essence of chicken.
The firm also aims to obtain more robust and complete data through the ongoing studies.
Vanilla flavour to drive sales
The company has plans to launch its vanilla-flavoured essence of chicken in more countries, after it first introduced it to the Thai market this year.
In fact, the bulk of the company’s flavours experiments have occurred in the Thai market.
This is despite the fact that about 88% of the sales came from the original flavour essence of chicken.
Nakao explained that putting a spin on the flavours was meant to “stimulate the brand” and also to provide an “entry point for new consumers”.
“In the beverage market, there are many varieties of flavours and especially for the younger generation, they will prefer a sweet profile or something familiar, such as the fruit or strawberry flavour. That is why we have decided to launch these flavours as an entry point to attract new consumers and grow sales.
“Just like the cup noodle brand Nissin and stick biscuit brand Pocky Glico, although they have the original flavour, they also went on to launch other new flavours. Introducing new flavours is a way to stimulate the brand,” he said.
To attract young children, the firm had even introduced the banana chocolate and honey chocolate flavours in Thailand.
On average, the time needed to develop a new flavour was about one year, said Yau Chin Chin, director of Scientific Research and Application.
“Developing a new taste takes about one year and we will need to do consumer research and stability study to ensure that the taste is stable.
“If we are adding active ingredients, we will need to check if the concept is well-received with the consumers and check the technical feasibility,” she said.
So far, new flavours can also be found in the Singaporean market, where Chinese herbs cordyceps and dang-gui (Chinese angelica root), and other nutrients, such as vitamin B, have been added.