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Asia Pacific: Most Japanese make purchase decisions based on on-pack health claims, DuPont tells FNI

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Food products containing Bifidobacterium lactis HN019 from the DuPont Danisco range have been recorded with the Consumer Affairs Agency, Government of Japan, for Food with Function Claims.

HN019 is the first Bifidobacterium lactis strain which allows a food manufacturer to state a health claim on products.

Currently, drinkable yogurts, yogurts, and dietary supplements containing HN019 have been recognized for claims stating to improve microflora and defecation for those suffering from constipation by adjusting intestinal environments.

Food News International finds out more from Yuta Nakazawa, sales manager, dietary supplements, DuPont, as he shares of the difference between product health claims and marketing messages.

FNI: What process did DuPont go through to have its Bifidobacterium lactis HN019 recorded for Foods with Function Claims in Japan?

Nakazawa: We worked very closely with our customers who are the actual applicants for Foods with Function Claims.

DuPont provided the technical information as required by the Consumer Affairs Agency (CAA), including meta-analysis on our existing clinical studies to ensure the function claim is substantiated and relevant to what is communicated on pack.

After the dossiers are submitted, we supported further by responding to scientific comments and/or requests from the CAA during the review process.

This process was made possible only based on the strong scientific documentation supporting the unique HN019 strain.

FNI: How long was the process and what resources did it require for the recording?

Nakazawa: It takes approximately 60 days from the day the dossier is submitted to the CAA.

During the stringent review process, the CAA may require DuPont to provide additional technical information in accordance to the Japanese Foods with Function Claims system. In the case of HN019, we worked very closely with the CAA and our team of scientists based in Kantvik, Finland where our probiotics research and development work is centered.

FNI: Why did DuPont wanted to record the ingredient with the Consumer Affairs Agency, Government of Japan?

Nakazawa: Consumer behaviors are changing and food market dynamics are evolving rapidly.

Increasingly, Japanese consumers are showing greater interest in healthy foods.

We partner closely with our customers and brand owners, and support them by helping to develop solutions, products, applications, processes, health claims and regulatory approvals.

HN019 is a probiotic strain backed by several clinical documentations with proven health benefits.

We hope to help our customers communicate this benefit on their labels so that consumers can make healthier food choices.

They can now file for application to include HN019 in their food products to make function claims on their food labels.

FNI: How would the new claim approval help DuPont stand out in Japan, amidst competition?

Nakazawa: Although there are many dairy companies in Japan who produce lactobacillus strains, probiotic supply to food manufacturers is usually limited.

With this new claim approval, we hope that industry partners can see the great value that DuPont can bring, through having a better understanding of their business and turning market insights into innovative solutions for profitable growth in the global food industry.

FNI: What’s your take on the market sentiments and demand for products with function claims?

Nakazawa: The food and beverage industry is in the midst of dramatic change, and that change is consistent across age ranges, regions of the country and income levels.

Globally, consumers are highly focused on health and wellness and are willing to pay more for products with health benefits.

In Japan, it is observed that food without functional claim is less attractive to consumers.

This trend is particularly notable for spoonable and drinking yogurt in Japan as most consumers make their purchase decisions based on on-pack health claims such as the functional benefits or the probiotics strain name.

It is evident that food manufacturers would want to ride on this market trend.

We strongly believe that food and beverage products with health claims would gain stronger traction in Japan.

FNI: How do consumers differentiate these claims from marketing messages?

Nakazawa: Health claims are seen as a ‘science push’ where ingredients or products are substantiated with scientific documentation to deliver a specific health benefit.

Consumers are motivated to pick up that product because they understand the science behind it.

On the contrary, a marketing message plays with consumer perception and is often seen as a ‘consumer pull’, where the purchase motivation starts with the consumer – adds value to lifestyle and health for example.

Therefore, the product is developed to meet the consumer demands.

In many markets, unless the consumer is discerning enough, there is no clear way to differentiate the two messages on-pack.

However, as a general guideline, health claims are typically more scientific and has a strong health benefit linked to the ingredient and/or product.

On the other hand, marketing messages tend to be more generic and focus on the consumer’s perception of health.

In Japan, all products with health claims that are filed at the CAA will be printed with ‘機能性表示食品’ or ‘Kinousei Hyoji Shokuhin’ meaning ‘Foods with Function Claims’ on the labels.

In this way, consumers can clearly differentiate these claims from generic marketing messages.