China and Vietnam focus: Japan’s kanpo specialist forays into sika deer glue ingredient export

By Tingmin Koe

- Last updated on GMT

Sika deer in Japan. ©Getty Images
Sika deer in Japan. ©Getty Images

Related tags Japan China Vietnam

Japan’s kanpo medicine company Health Business Info is expanding its sika deer glue business, with plans to export ingredients into China and Vietnam.

The company is already selling kanpo medicines – the name for traditional Chinese medicine in Japan – in China and Vietnam, including a sleep aid formula​ made from sika deer glue and a men’s health formula​ made from cordyceps in the two countries respectively.

In the domestic Japan market, the company has been manufacturing and selling its own branded kanpo medicines, while also providing OEM services for its sika deer glue portfolio at the same time.

Although the products are developed based on kanpo medicines concept, the company’s products are registered as general food in Japan.

Sika deer is mostly found in Hokkaido. Due to over-reproduction, the sika deer is said to be a traffic hazard and has caused imbalances in the local biodiversity, as well as affecting local agriculture and forestry.

The Japanese government has been trying to reduce the sika deer population through hunting activities. Deer meat is then sent to deer meat processing companies, while sika deer glue, which includes deer skin, bones, and horns are discarded.

In 2016, the company started looking into the use of sika deer glue based on kanpo medicines concepts.

This year, the company hopes to start exporting its sika deer glue ingredients into China and Vietnam, on top of selling finished consumer products into the two countries.

“Without a doubt, China is a big market and has the traditional culture of using TCM/Kanpo medicine. Moreover, there is a high demand for overseas made products in China,” ​managing director of the firm Tei Ken told NutraIngredients-Asia.

As for the Vietnamese market, the company sees potential in the company’s rising economy, a stronger purchasing power, and a generally young population.

“Vietnamese have a bit of knowledge on kanpo medicines ingredients such as cordyceps. They also have interest in Japan’s food culture,” ​Tei said.

Vietnam is also seen as an entry point into the rest of South East Asia, he said, adding that the company has been preparing to set up a company in the country.

The powdered sika deer glue ingredient can be made into tablet, capsule, and even beverage form, he said.

Based on existing kanpo medicine knowledge, deer glue can be made into products that promote women’s and men’s health, mental health, beauty, and healthy ageing. 

At the same time, the company is also developing finished products using sika deer glue for women’s health, beauty, mental health, and healthy ageing under its own brand. It is expecting to launch some of these products this year.

Bestsellers

As seen from COVID-19 last year, Tei said the company’s sika deer glue products for sleep and men’s health were among its top three bestsellers. The other topseller is a product for preventing hair fall.

“Due to COVID-19, mental stress and sleep have been affected. One thing special about our sleep aid product is that it does not use melatonin.

“Sales of the men’s health product was also stable and did not decrease due to COVID-19,” ​he said.

Prior to sika deer glue, the company’s business is largely focused on e-jiao, which is usually made with donkey hide gelatin.

The company used to procure donkey hide gelatin from popular China e-jiao company Dong-E E-Jiao​ to manufacture and sell its own e-jiao finished products in Japan. However, due to rising costs of the e-jiao raw material over the years, the company has decided to reduce the use of e-jiao in its products.

Tei said that the cost of the donkey hide raw material had jump from RMB$180 (US$27.60) in 2006 to RMB$3,600 (US$552) in 2015.

In the company’s current deer glue business, the raw material is purchased from deer meat processing company in frozen form to preserve its freshness.

Research

The company is embarking on R&D to find out the key compounds and functionalities of the different bioactives found in sika deer glue.

The company is partnering tertiary institutes, such as Toho University and Rakuno Gakuen University, in its R&D.

Tei said this would enable the company in its future product development and processing techniques. 

“The purpose of doing research is also to validate the kanpo medicine concepts that we use in developing our products,” ​he said.

The company is also working with traditional Japan snacks firms in developing and marketing new snacks products made based on deer glue.

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