Japan’s Growing Health Food Market


Japanese like to think of themselves as being more health-conscious, particularly with regard to their food intake, than most other people, and in many waysthey are correct. Life spans are longer in Japan than anywhere else in the world arguably because of the way people eat. That sort of diet consciousness is spreading globally and the Japanese have even created their own catchphrases.

‘Metabolic syndrome’, or ‘Metabo’ as it is better known in Japan, has become abuzz word, referring to life style related conditions including cholesterol levels, diabetes, blood pressure, obesity, and aging. The result is a growing market for health foods in Japan that is being tapped by both local and foreign companies. This is creating business opportunities galore.

It all started back in the 1990s when Japan systematized its “Food for Specified Health Use (FOSHU)” and “self-medication” programs that urged people to manage their own health through dietary practices. Since then, as the population continued to age,these messages gained even greater traction. But in 2005 Japan’s government eased regulations on food for specified health use, which has blurred the possibilities of growth for the health food market. Consumer health conscious has greatly changed in terms of food for specified health use.

Responses to the survey Japan Health Food & Nutrition Food Association, conducted in the end of November 2007, and are targeted government-approved 743products, showed that in the beginning this market was centeredon intestinal regulation. Now research and development has focused on blood pressure, teeth related, blood sugar level, and cholesterol. The market is expanding for these reasons. Lately theterms neutral fat related products are spreading. Food for specified health use for neutral fat and body fat related market in 2007 hasgrown by 72.5 billion yen compared to two years ago. Other areas are showing strong numbers as well.

In regards to blood pressure, the growth levels have been steady since the year2005; market share has grown to 25 billion yen. Cholesterol related health food market share has grown to 23 billion yen. The main products in this area are cooking oil and salad related condiments. Teeth related products, especially gum since the displaylicense was granted in 2003 has shown startling growth which still continues today.

“Factors underlying the growth of neutral fat and body fatrelated market are, from April 2008, starting health guidance for ‘Metabolic syndrome’, the name for a group of risk factors linked to overweight and obesity that increase the chance for heart disease and other health problems such as diabetes and stroke,” says Toshiaki Kitsukawa, Director of Foods for Specified Health Uses Department and Nutrition Food Department, Japan Health Food & Nutrition Food Association.
“Metabolicsyndrome’ is not hard to understand themselves for people withthese symptoms. That leads to enhance purchasing power forneutral fat and body fat related market,” he added.

Source from Japan External Trade Organization

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