COVID-19 in Japan: Supplement giants on maintaining manufacturing during state of emergency

By Guan Yu Lim contact

- Last updated on GMT

Supplement manufacturing considered ‘essential’ service, allowed to operate during state of emergency ©Getty Images
Supplement manufacturing considered ‘essential’ service, allowed to operate during state of emergency ©Getty Images

Related tags: Japan, COVID-19, morinaga milk industry, Kewpie, eminet

Japanese firms such as Nippn, Kirin, Morinaga Milk Industry, Kewpie, Yakult, Eminet, and FANCL have been sharing their experiences of operating in Japan despite the state of emergency in the country due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

On April 16, Japan’s Prime Minster Shinzo Abe declared a nationwide state of emergency in all 47 prefectures, in a bid to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

PM Abe explained it was not a lockdown, and essential services like clinics, pharmacies, transportation, banks, post offices, delivery services, supermarkets and convenience stores would continue to operate.

Sales are up

Probiotics and infant formula producer Morinaga Milk Industry told us production was continuing as normal, with research associate Chyn Boon Wong stating that dietary supplements are considered ‘essential services’ in Japan.

And Yuji Nishina, general manager of the overseas business division at Eminet, a fish collagen manufacturer, said this was especially the case for those with Food with Specified Health Use (FOSHU) claims.

Some people consider it as medicine, so it is an essential service especially for those who expect an effect of improving immunity​.”

Wong added that Morinaga’s sales of probiotic supplements had increased since February, due to heightened health consciousness among consumers.

She said that production staff and researchers were working in shifts to ensure their safety, and officers were teleworking.

Kirin also reported that sales of its iMUSE supplements brand products containing Lactococcus lactis strain Plasma​ increased significantly in March, with its iMUSE professional range selling more than 2.5 times higher than the corresponding month last year.

Ataka Takashima from the corporate communication department, added that sales of its iMUSE beverage brand products, containing the same strain, more than tripled from January to March 2020 compared to the same period last year.

Meanwhile Kewpie confirmed that its production of food, beverage, and dietary supplements had been permitted to operate.

Kewpie is also in the business of salad dressings that carry a food with function claim (FFC), namely sesame dressing with linseed oil and Japanese onion dressing, which seek to lower blood pressure and suppress fat absorption.

According to public relations officer Atsuko Udagawa, the COVID-19 outbreak had not negatively impacted its business.

In fact, the company decided to expand sales of its FFC salad dressings nationwide in February 2020. Previously it was only available in five prefectures.

Udagawa told NutraIngredients-Asia​: “If anything, the expansion of the sales area has had a large effect, and in February and March it was about three times higher than the year before.​”

Udagawa said production and distribution continued as planned, with office staff teleworking.

Over at Yakult, Hideki Maruyama from the public relations department, said average daily bottle sales of dairy products in February were up 2.6% compared to the previous year. Average daily bottle sales of dairy products in March were projected to surpass the previous year.

Maruyama said their distribution employees, also known as Yakult Ladies, were asked to wear face masks and use hand sanitisers when making deliveries.

Toshihiro Tomita from FANCL's public relations department said sales of its vitamin C and D supplements have been strong as people were increasingly more conscious of managing their health. FANCL's stores are closed nationwide, however Tomita said the company's online and wholesale channels (drug stores, supermarkets) are still open for consumers.

For Eminet, producer of Tenshi no RaRa, a liquid fish collagen to promote skin health, General Manager Nishina added that sales had not been negatively affected so far because of its mail order system.

Despite the crisis, the company is going ahead with the launch of a new soap product in Taiwan on April 21.

At Nippn Flour Mills, GM Ko Murai said there were some delay of imported raw materials, but production continues.

More to follow

The emergency order is in effect until May 6.

Earlier on April 7, PM Abe had declared a state of emergency limited to seven prefectures, Tokyo, Kanagawa, Saitama, Chiba, Osaka, Hyogo and Fukuoka before extending it nationwide.

Hokkaido was the first to declare its own state of emergency on February 28, ahead of the central government’s announcement, and lifted it on March 19. However, it is now seeing a second wave of infections and has issued a joint emergency declaration with Sapporo.

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