From COVID-19 to Chemist Warehouse: Kaneka breaks down factors driving uptake of ubiquinol in China, Australia

By Tingmin Koe

- Last updated on GMT

Heart health is one of the key reasons for taking ubiquinol supplements in China. ©Getty Images
Heart health is one of the key reasons for taking ubiquinol supplements in China. ©Getty Images

Related tags Kaneka chemist warehouse ubiquinol COVID-19

Ubiquinol, the active form of co-enzyme Q10, is seeing a strong uptake in China and Australia, says supplier Kaneka.

In China, consumer interest in products that could support heart health post-COVID infection is a key reason driving growth in the past year.

Data from Kaneka showed that the sales of both ubiquinol and co-enzyme Q10 or ubiquinone products into China via cross-border e-commerce (CBEC) platform Tmall were up 29 per cent between the second half of 2022 and the same period last year.

Sales of ubiquinol supplements alone were up 46 per cent during this period, while that of CoQ10 was up 18 per cent.

Speaking to NutraIngredients-Asia,​ Tsuyoshi Takakuwa, head of marketing and sales team (APAC), Supplemental Nutrition Business Division, Kaneka Corporation, pointed out that much of the interest in ubiquinol was generated during COVID-19.

This was because consumers were seeking products that could alleviate post-COVID symptoms, especially those that could support heart health, due to advice from health practitioners and awareness spreading across social media.

From what we are seeing in China, ubiquinol sales is still growing via CBEC, following the trend from last January, where some healthcare professionals in China recommended to take ubiquinol for recovery from long-COVID symptoms and especially for heart health after COVID, and messaging for its benefits have been circulated around social media in China,”​ said Takakuwa.

Ubiquinol supplements are largely sold into China via CBEC as the ingredient is not yet approved as a “blue hat” ingredient for general trade within the country.

This also means that much of the ubiquinol supplements sold in China are made by overseas brands, and products from Australia and New Zealand are especially popular among the Chinese, said Takakuwa.

Today, Australia’s Herbs of Gold – Ubiquinol 150mg are sold in China via CBEC, similarly for GNC with its Super Q-10 Ubiquinol 200mg 30 Softgels and VIK pro Super CoQ10 ubiquinol.

With the surge in overseas made ubiquinol products in China via CBEC, Kaneka is starting to receive more enquiries from local Chinese supplement firms as well.

“Recently, more and more Chinese brand holders who operate CBEC businesses in China from Australia or Japan etc are interested in our ubiquinol,”​said Kenta Ikeda, marketing and sales, supplement nutrition at Kaneka Corp.

The company is therefore prioritising APAC’s growth in China and ANZ markets this year – the latter of which is lucrative for both domestic growth and CBEC distribution into China.

We are getting lots of enquiries from overseas for entering the Chinese market and have discussed with many new customers to launch ubiquinol in China,” ​said Takakuwa.

Brands jump on the bandwagon

Elsewhere in Australia, the company notices that there are more brands paying interest in ubiquinol following the endorsement from major pharmacy chain Chemist Warehouse in the years preceding COVID-19.

GO Healthy, Microgenics – a private brand of Chemist Warehouse, and Wagner Professional are some of the brands selling ubiquinol supplements in Chemist Warehouse.

Prior to that, it was mainly the practitioner-only brands, such as BioCeuticals, which are selling ubiquinol over the counter in pharmacies.

Takakuwa said that with Chemist Warehouse stocking ubiquinol supplements, there has been a wave of other brands wanting to add ubiquinol into their offerings too.

Caruso Health is one of the latest brands that has done so, having introduced a capsule supplement containing ubiquinol and vitamin K2 late last year.

The product claims to maintain heart health and healthy heart function, support artery and blood vessel health, maintain energy production and energy levels, and support bone health.

Many years ago, in Australia, healthcare practitioner brands sell ubiquinol products and many practitioners recognise ubiquinol as a new form of CoQ10.

“In recent years, Chemist Warehouse has stocked ubiquinol products, so major consumer brands in Australia are starting to launch ubiquinol products,” ​he said.   

In Australia, there are over 30 registered ubiquinol food supplement products.

I think you can imagine that our sales trend, which went up suddenly because of sales in major pharmacy chain,” ​he added.

Similar to China, heart health is the most common reasons for taking ubiquinol in Australia.

However, consumers in Australia also tend to take it for energy production and as an antioxidant. In China, there is also interest in ubiquinol for recovering from fatigue and improving fertility.

Outside of these two countries, New Zealand, Malaysia, and Taiwan are also catching on the trend, and this is most likely because these markets tend to follow trends happening in Australia.

In Malaysia, Kaneka’s plans for this year include working with the Malaysian Dietary Supplement Association (MADSA) in promoting the awareness of ubiquinol among member companies and health practitioners. The ingredient is also halal certified.

Back home in Japan, Kaneka says there are about 100 products containing ubiquinol launched.

Huge potential by powering the mitochondria 

The benefits of ubiquinol, however, is not limited to heart health, antioxidant, and fatigue.

This is because the antioxidant is found naturally in cell mitochondria, which are the “powerhouses” that generate ATP energy, and this is fuelled by the body’s production of ubiquinol.

Mitochondria are found in highest concentration in tissues and organs requiring the highest levels of energy production, including the heart, brain, liver, lungs, muscles, sperm, and ovum. This also means these are the areas which would contain and require the highest amount of ubiquinol.

Thus, Takakuwa said that benefits of ubiquinol could possibly extend to cognitive health and sports recovery – areas which the company was studying.

He added that the body’s production of ubiquinol would decline naturally from around the age of 30, but people in their 20s could also benefit from supplementation, as enzymatic conversion in the body alone might be insufficient in producing ubiquinol.

Aside from new benefit areas, innovation in ubiquinol products is also happening by combining it with other active ingredients.

Popular combinations include vitamin B, C, E, K2, and fish oil with ubiquinol. There is also increased interest in combining it with krill oil, milk thistle, nicotinamide mononucleotide (NMN), and pyrroloquinoline quinone (PQQ). 

Dosage formats wise, Kaneka said that ubiquinol could be delivered in soft-gel capsules, gummies, powder, nutraceuticals, food and beverages.

Clinical trials

Over 90 studies have been conducted on ubiquinol, demonstrating its role in supporting mitochondrial health and energy production across cardiovascular, reproductive health, sleep, stress, and eye health etc.

A 2022 study by Janet D. Pierce et al​ reported that three months supplementation of ubiquinol could improve symptoms of heart failure and the levels of B-type natriuretic peptides – a biomarker for chronic heart failure.

The study also showed an increase in ejection fraction, or the amount of blood the heart pumps each time it beats, and ATP production. 

Another study by Lin et al ​published in Nutrients​ last year showed that ubiquinol supplementation could improve egg quality in women undergoing IVF treatment.

Findings of a 90-day RCT investigating its cognitive effects in healthy elderly are slated for publication.

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