Lactococcus lactis strain Plasma (L. lactis strain Plasma) is Kirin's proprietary functional ingredient backed by research to support maintenance of the immune system by stimulating plasmacytoid dendritic cells.
L. lactis strain Plasma is the key ingredient in Kirin’s iMUSE range of supplements, yoghurt and beverages, which is Japan’s first-ever brand registered as a Food with Functional Claim for immune function.
The newly added 10 products include supplements, milk tea, green tea, throat lozenges, chocolates, and jellies.
These will be launched by Kirin’s brands such as Koiwai Dairy and Kirin Beverage as well as external partner companies such as Orihiro Plantdew, Kanro and Moringa & Co.
Orihiro Plantdew which will launch a konjac jelly, Kanro will release a gummy product, and Morinaga & Co will roll out a chocolate, lozenges and cocoa product.
These formats are expected to cater to different consumer preferences and lifestyle. The products are ready-to-drink or eat, and come in convenient packaging. They will be sold from supermarkets, convenience stores, and online, so it is easier for immune-conscious consumers to adopt them into their daily diet.
Watch the video to learn Kirin’s expansion strategy.
In Japan, the iMUSE series has performed beyond expectations, reflecting the growing interest for immunity-related products.
Sales of products containing L. lactis strain Plasma have grown 60% year-on-year from January to August 2021, compared to the same period last year.
Kirin expects consumers' interest in immune system care to continue to grow and demand to expand, so much so, it revised the 2021 sales target for L. lactis strain Plasma products.
“We revised our business plan upward and set a sales target of JPY 13.5 billion (US$123 million) this year, up from JPY 11 billion (US$100 million) at the beginning of the year,” said Dr Daisuke Fujiwara, general manager, Health Science Department, at Kirin Holdings.
For beverages containing L. lactis strain Plasma, the annual sales target has been revised upward to five million cases, an increase of about 20% from the initial plan.
Besides the nine new additions, some of the existing products containing L. lactis strain Plasma were also renewed, meaning changes to the packaging.
“In the renewal planned for this year, the words ‘immune care’, which are easily understood by consumers, will be written in large letters on the package. In addition, the company has launched an advertisement featuring a national celebrity to convey the importance of immune care to consumers and raise awareness of the product,” Fujiwara said.
To meet increasing demand for L. lactis strain Plasma, Kirin plans to double production capacity to about 28 tonnes by 2023.
It will do so by expanding the manufacturing centre at the iMUSE Health Science Factory, located in Saitama Prefecture. The investment is estimated at around JPY 900 million (US$8 million).
Besides L. lactis strain Plasma, the site also produces another lactic acid bacteria strain - Lactobacillus paracasei strain KW3110.
Kirin Holdings is looking to expand sales of L. lactis strain Plasma and iMUSE in overseas markets. The L. lactis strain Plasma is currently sold through B2B channels in US and Europe. iMUSE products are available in Vietnam.
Thoughts on win
At the NutraIngredients-Asia Awards 2021, Kirin’s iMUSE emerged as the winner of the Product of the Year: Immune Support.
Fujiwara commented on the win: “It is an honor for Kirin Holdings to be chosen for its Lactococcus lactis strain Plasma – the functional ingredient in iMUSE.”
“This is the culmination of many years of research. Over 10 years ago, when I set out to do this research, my mission was to find ways to contribute to protection against viral infection. This award validates our hard work.”
“Moving forward, Kirin Holdings will carry on this mission, finding more ways to contribute to the health of as many people as possible, first by making efforts to spread this kind of research through Asia.”
According to Fujiwara, the functional food industry needs to closely align its products with the changing needs of post-COVID-19 consumers' lives. “The assumptions about stress and health issues are changing dramatically. We will predict these changes, anticipate their needs, and cater to them early.”