Delicacy and energy: Okinawa sea cucumber bar producer unveils domestic and international expansion plans

By Guan Yu Lim contact

- Last updated on GMT

Sea cucumber energy bar producer eyes Japan and Asian expansion ©MGH
Sea cucumber energy bar producer eyes Japan and Asian expansion ©MGH

Related tags: Japan, sea cucumber, energy bars

Okinawa brand MGH is seeking to retail its sea cucumber energy bar into supermarkets and convenience stores in Japan, as well as exploring export opportunities.

The energy-boosting product was first launched late 2020, in the Ginza Beauty Life mall in Tokyo and airport stores within Japan.

The firm is also eyeing exports to China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, South Korea and Singapore by the end of this year, where sea cucumbers are prized for its nutritional value and texture.

In Japan, sea cucumbers are eaten during the Spring Festival, while in China, they are treated as a delicacy.

China alone accounts for 90% of the global sea cucumber consumption, with the market valued at RMB100bn (US$15bn) in 2016.

Nutritional value

In countries that consume sea cucumbers, they are believed to relieve joint pain, frequency urination, impotency and may protect against cancer, although there is limited medical evidence.

One study by Sara Bordbar et al​., in 2011 reviewed that sea cucumber’s functional components such as mucopolysaccharides and chondroitins could be effective in easing joint pain and arthritis-like disorders, similar to glucosamine sulfate’s effect.

The study also reviewed sea cucumber’s presence of triterpene glycosides which may show anticancer and antiproliferative properties.

Sea cucumbers contain 18 types of amino acids and is zero-fat.

Ready-to-eat sea cucumber

However, traditional methods of preparation and cooking often result in the loss of nutritional value. It is often boiled in high temperature and salted for preservation, which degrades the functional proteins, polysaccharides and other water-soluble nutrients.

For consumers, it is a time-consuming affair, having to rehydrate the dried sea cucumbers (often sold in this form) for days, before adding into soups, stews or stir-fry.

According to MGH’s CEO, Whitney Wong, more people are recognising the health benefits of sea cucumbers now, “COVID-19 has also made everyone pay more attention to their own health​.”

We wanted to develop a product that matched the busy modern society​.”

Hence the firm spent 900 days and 3,000 tests to create an energy boosting instant sea cucumber bar in the form of a jelly.

Wong said the jelly texture was ideal for children to the elderly.

Each sea cucumber jelly stick (20g) contains 20.4kcal energy, 1000mg sea cucumber powder, 100 million Bifidobacterium longum BR-108, and 0.148mg of vitamin B12.

BR-108 has been studied for its ability to regulate intestinal health.

The company sources its sea cucumber from Hamaguchi Shoten Co.,Ltd, while manufacturing is done by OEM.

The sea cucumbers are caught from the Sea of Japan. They are transferred to a JAS certified organic factory to be cold extracted, before freeze drying into a powder and formed and molded in a sterile environment.

The loss of nutritional value of sea cucumbers during processing is avoided through this method.

This ready-to-eat sea cucumber jelly allows convenient consumption, which has seen rising popularity among white-collar workers in Japan, according to Wong.

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