‘Bifina’ in China: Japan probiotics specialist Morishita Jintan enters market with best-selling brand launch

By Tingmin Koe

- Last updated on GMT

The probiotic strain bifidobacterium longum BB536 in 'Bifina' as shown to modulate the gut microbiome. ©Getty Images
The probiotic strain bifidobacterium longum BB536 in 'Bifina' as shown to modulate the gut microbiome. ©Getty Images

Related tags Japan China Probiotics Morinaga

Japan’s supplement company Morishita Jintan is venturing into the China market with its bestselling probiotic brand ‘Bifina’ via a partnership with China firm Sinopharm Xingsha Pharmaceutical.

‘Bifina’ is said to be Japan’s bestselling probiotic brand for the past 23 years, according to market research firm Fuji Keizai.

The two companies signed a strategic cooperation agreement at the Natural Health and Nutrition Expo held in Guangzhou.

Under the agreement, Sinopharm will be distributing the products to both online and offline channels.

Yuji Sakuta, manager at international business department told NutraIngredients-Asia ​that while the firm had conducted OEM business in China before, ‘Bifina’ was the first in-house product that the company had introduced in the country.

‘Bifina’ contains a mixture of prebiotics, lactobacillus acidophilus, lactobacillus gasseri​, and the proprietary probiotic strain bifidobacterium longum ​BB536 isolated from healthy infants. The probiotic BB536 is manufactured and commercialised by fellow Japanese firm Morinaga.

Research has shown that the strain could modulate the gut microbiome, ​in turn improving gastrointestinal health and alleviate allergic disorders.

Coming in a ‘pearl’ pill form, as well as a stick sachet containing a mixture of granules and fine powder, ‘Bifina’ is also recognised as a Foods with Function Claims (FFC) in Japan.

Apart from different dosage formats, the company also offered the product in varying live bacteria CFU count – ranging from 5bn, 10bn to 25bn.

Its approved FFC claim is to “condition the stomach”, since the strain has shown to improve intestinal flora and bowel movements.

Sakuta told us that apart from the major e-commerce channels Tmall and JD.com, the probiotics will also be sold in China’s maternity product stores.

In terms of offline channel, the products will be introduced to different provinces gradually. At present, it is already sold in Shanghai.

“The China market has exhibited outstanding growth and more China consumers are increasingly concerned about the use of health products.

“We believe as the two companies work together, we can make ‘Bifina’ a popular product and achieve results that’s comparable to the extraordinary results seen in Japan,”​ CEO Yuji Morishita said during the signing ceremony.  

Sakuta added that the firm was intending to sell other health supplements aside from ‘Bifina’ in China.

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Three-layer protection technique

A key feature of ‘Bifina’ is that the live bacteria are encapsulated using Morishita Jintan’s proprietary ‘seamless capsule’ technology to prevent it from being destroyed by the stomach acid.

The ‘seamless capsule’ comes in three layers. The innermost layer will contain the probiotic powder, followed by a double enteric coating to prevent the capsule from disintegrating in stomach acid.

The design is also said to facilitate sustained release of the live bacteria and has a bioavailability rate of 90%.

On Tmall, a box of Bifina (CFU 10bn) containing 30 sachets is sold at RMB$1,057 (US$154).

“The technology can deliver the probiotics to the intestines directly and because of the technology, the price is quite expensive as compared to other products in China,”​ said Sakuta.

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