In Japan, Foods with Function Claims (FFC) can come in various forms, such as tablets, capsules, RTDs, fermented milk, powder beverage, confectionery, and even cooking oil and seasonings.
Unlike the stricter Foods for Specified Health Uses (FOSHU) scheme, companies can sell products with health claims without producing scientific evidence from human clinical studies under the FFC scheme.
FFCs also do not require approval from the regulatory body CAA to make a health claim.
“FFCs are highly popular in Japan. In general, based on data from the Consumer Affairs Agency (CAA), ready-to-drink beverages and tablets are the most common formats.
“However, FFCs in the form of hard capsules are seeing a higher growth rate,” Esther Shing, marketing lead of Japan, Lonza Consumer Health Ingredients (CHI) Japan, said.
As of October last year, out of the 3,400 FFCs, six per cent were in the form of capsules, 25 per cent in the form of tablets, 18 per cent in the form of beverage, and 14 per cent in the form of soft gel.
Citing figures from market research firm Yano Keizai, Shing said that the CAGR growth for hard capsules was higher.
Between 2015 and 2018, the CAGR growth for OEM supplement sales revenue (B2B) of hard capsules was 2.8 per cent, while that of soft gel was 0.3 per cent, and tablets at 1.6 per cent.
She also attributed growing demand for capsules to the ongoing rise in popularity of popularity, claiming that they have been better at retaining live bacteria.
This is because in the process of making tablets, pressure will be applied, and this can reduce the count of live bacteria, Taiko Ijichi, business development manager, Lonza CHI Japan, explained.
In contrast, by putting probiotics into hard capsules, heat and processing stress could be avoided.
Lonza recently launched two novel capsule formats in the Japan market - DUOCAP capsule-in-capsule and Licaps liquid-filled hard capsules.
The first is a proprietary capsule-in-capsule delivery system that allows for timed release of different ingredients.
For instance, the outer capsule could contain solubilised prebiotics and inner capsule could contain probiotic. This allows prebiotics – the food for probiotics – to be released first and enable the probiotics to survive gastric acids before being released in the intestines.
Ingredients of different nature could also be packed into a capsule using this technology.
As for Licaps liquid-filled hard capsules, the capsule could contain both liquid and beadlets at the same time.
The company said that it has been seeing increased interest in its liquid filled capsules with beadlets because this has allowed its customers to differentiate themselves in the marketplace with a unique looking product, while providing the ability to put together slow release beadlets and fat soluble vitamins in one capsules.
With the launch, Lonza will be manufacturing the two products locally in Japan at the Sagamihara city in Kanagawa prefecture.
The company said that the first finished product made using the Capsugel Licaps with beadlets technology for launch in Japan would be available in the market during autumn.
Outside of Japan, the company has seen growing interest in the two products in South East Asia, Korea, and China, especially across the women’s health and digestive health product categories.