Eyes open: Japan consumers are leaning towards functional foods over oral supplements – pharma giant

By Hui Ling Dang

- Last updated on GMT

Senju Pharmaceutical's “onoono for eye” series is the company’s first products with the Food with Function Claims label. ©onoono
Senju Pharmaceutical's “onoono for eye” series is the company’s first products with the Food with Function Claims label. ©onoono

Related tags Japan Functional foods Supplements Eye

Japanese firm Senju Pharmaceutical says consumers are increasingly opting for functional foods over supplements, after debuting its first range of eye products under the Food with Function Claims (FFCs) system that come in chocolate, candy and gummy formats.

A pioneer of ophthalmic drugs, Senju Pharmaceutical has leveraged its expertise in eye health to develop a new range of supplements under its onoono brand.

Launched in February this year, the “onoono for eye” series is the company’s first products with the FFCs​ label.

The product line consists of four dietary supplements in different formats, specifically chocolate, candy, gummy and soft capsule.

“Health consciousness is increasing among consumers, and various health-related products are being created to improve people’s quality of life. The reason why we decided to develop the different formats was because of our conversations with customers, who said that they did not like capsules as they tend to ‘get stuck’ in the throat,” ​said Shuhei Yoshida, President and CEO of Senju Pharmaceutical.

In a survey conducted by the firm, 50% of the 94 respondents in their 20s to 60s stated that they find capsule supplements “hard to consume”.

In addition, the participants revealed that if the same amount of functional ingredients in a capsule supplement could be ingested from a functional food, they would prefer to take the latter.

“We went through many trial and error during the development process before finalising the products. Consumers can choose from the four types of eye supplement according to their lifestyle and taste preference. For example, you can use the onoono Chocolate to replace a snack,” ​Yoshida added.

Effective for the eye

The three main ingredients for this product range are astaxanthin, lutein and zeaxanthin, all of which are known to be beneficial for eye health.  

Astaxanthin can reportedly reduce eye fatigue caused by daily video display terminal (VDT) work on computers and smartphones by maintaining the eye-focus adjustment function.

It is also an antioxidant that is used in formulations to reduce muscle fatigue and strain, which is often associated with prolonged deskbound postures.

On the other hand, studies have shown that lutein and zeaxanthin can increase macular pigment, and in turn enhance visual function in several ways.

These include protection against blue light and ultraviolet rays, improved ability to see clearly (visual acuity and contrast sensitivity), and a quicker recovery from glare (difficulty seeing in the presence of bright light).

In terms of taste, onoono Chocolate is said to resemble a typical sweet treat that is sugar-coated, crispy on the outside and crunchy inside.

Both the Gummy and Soft Candy come in a blood orange flavour that balances sweetness and acidity, while the Soft Capsule is designed to be “as small as possible” to make swallowing easier.

The eye supplements are currently available on onoono’s website, and e-commerce marketplaces Rakuten and Amazon Japan.

“Going forward, we will challenge ourselves with the goal of developing even more original products catering to the five senses of touch, hearing, sight, smell and taste in future,”​ Yoshida concluded.

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