Functional approach: Taisho steps up nutrition product development as pharma business declines

By Guan Yu Lim

- Last updated on GMT

Taisho's latest food with function claim supplements for uric acid (left) and cholesterol (right) ©Taisho
Taisho's latest food with function claim supplements for uric acid (left) and cholesterol (right) ©Taisho

Related tags Japan Taisho Pharmaceutical FFC

Japan’s Taisho Pharmaceutical Holdings is stepping up product development in its nutrition business, as its prescription pharmaceutical struggles to secure significant growth opportunities.

Taisho is one of the largest pharmaceutical firms in Japan, accounting for over 13% of the over-the-counter (OTC) market in the country. It produces drugs such as antibiotics and dietary supplement products including energy drinks.

The company reported in its annual financials that its prescription pharmaceutical business has been dropping in recent years, citing increasing difficulty in discovering new drugs and the steady penetration of various government measures designed to curb healthcare costs.

Despite this and the ageing population, there has been growing interest in health consciousness among consumers. Considering the current environment, the company is rolling out new food with function claims (FFC) products under its self-medication business to satisfy consumer needs.

In Japan, the health food market is valued at JPY2 trillion (US$18bn), a lucrative industry made up of food with specific health uses (FOSHU) and food with function claims (FFC).

Uric acid

The first product is a supplement (English name: Tablets for people concerned about their uric acid level) targeted for consumers with high uric acid levels between 5.5 to 7.0 mg/dL.

High uric acid level also known as hyperuricemia can lead to several diseases including gout and kidney disease.

A recent cohort study published in Scientific Reports​ examined 500,511 Japanese subjects (40–74 years) and found that even a slight increase in serum uric acid levels was an independent risk factor for all-cause and cardiovascular mortality.

According to Nobuyuki Hiraga, from Taisho Pharmaceutical’s corporate communications division, it contains anserine, an amino acid known to inhibit the enzyme that produces uric acid.

In the diet, anserine is abundant in fish and chicken. The supplement contains 50mg of anserine per three pills, the recommended dosage.

It is retailing on Taisho’s e-commerce store for JPY3,500 (US$32).

Cholesterol and fat

The second supplement (English name: Choles & Middlecare Capsule W) is a product to reduce cholesterol and triglycerides levels.

First launched in 2018 in pill format, the renewed product now comes in softgel capsules and contains the functional ingredients, lycopene, DHA and EPA.

Hiraga told us: “Lycopene has the effect of inhibition cholesterol synthesis in the liver, and accelerate LDL (bad) cholesterol decomposition.

DHA and EPA can accelerate fatty acid decomposition in the liver and inhibit triglyceride synthesis in the liver​.”

The supplement contains 27.8mg of lycopene, 275 mg of DHA, and 25 mg of EPA for three capsules, the recommended intake.

It retails in drug stores nationwide for JPY1,800 (US$16).

The company recently reported its FY2019 earnings where revenue grew to JPY288bn (US$2.7bn) from JPY261bn (US$2.4bn) in FY2018. However, profit fell to JPY25bn (US$232m) from JPY40.9bn (US$371m).

For FY2020, the company is forecasting a profit of JPY23bn (US$213m).


Source: Scientific Reports

“Association between serum uric acid levels and mortality: a nationwide community-based cohort study”

Authors: Tsuneo Konta, et al​.

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