The joint venture, INHOP Co, was established last year to manufacture and market lifestyle products containing the extract. As an advertising agency, Dentsu is involved in the branding of such products.
According to Yuji Kaneko, president of INHOP, the gummy (HOPinGUMMI) and tablet (JUKEN-RYOKU) claim to support consumer’s thinking time and were targeted at students and working adults.
Hops is a raw material for the production of beer which gives the bitterness but is also known for its health functions such as improving sleep and maintaining bone mineral density.
Matured hop extract is made from aged hops through a water-extraction process. It contains one-tenth the bitterness of hops and can be mixed with various food and beverages, and essentially risk-free for people of all ages including children.
Kirin has conducted several studies of its matured hop extract with the first in 2017, in a joint study with the University of Tokyo. Matured hop extract was found to improve cognitive function and depression symptoms in a mouse model.
In a more recent study (June 2020), Kirin and the Juntendo University School of Medicine conducted a joint clinical trial, showing that matured hop extract can improve cognitive function and mood in middle-aged and elderly people with symptoms of memory loss.
In addition to cognitive functions, Kirin also published a study in 2016, detailing matured hop extract’s ability to reduce body fat in a clinical trial involving 200 overweight but healthy Japanese adults. This resulted in the launch of Kirin’s non-alcoholic beer (Karada Free) containing matured hop extracts claiming to reduce abdominal fat.
Both of the new products are food products, and do not have any health claims, although Kaneko said the company was marketing them as a ‘thinking supplement’ series to support thinking time.
For HOPinGUMMI, grapefruit flavour was added to reduce the distinctive bitterness of matured hops, making it more acceptable for people of all ages, including children.
There were several reasons for making a gummy format, he said: “After considering which form would be easier to eat for people studying and working, we chose the gummy form, which allows them to eat without getting their hands dirty and disrupting their concentration.”
There was no indication of dosage of matured hop extract in both the gummy and tablet products, which Kaneko explained: “We avoid indicating ingredient names and quantities because we are selling the products as food. We do not want the consumer to recognise they have medical effects.”
Previous studies conducted by Kirin on the health benefits found an intake of 35mg of matured hop bitter acids (the functional component of matured hop extract) on a continuous basis could show cognitive improvement and anti-obesity effects. Kaneko declined to share dosage details.
Currently the two products are only sold through INHOP’s online store, with no intention to sell in other channels. Kaneko said: “The products are still in the test sales phase, which we hope many people will try it and brush up on our products to scale.” The products have been on sale since end July 2020.
The gummies retail for JPY324 (US$3) (12 gummies) while the tablets for JPY3,240 (US$30) (60 tablets).
INHOP is hoping to develop more products incorporating Kirin’s matured hop extract that will be beneficial for general health and wellness.
Kirin Holdings currently own 51% of the venture, and Dentsu 49%.