Speaking to NutraIngredients-Asia in Tokyo, representatives from the firm said it wanted to show potential customers the huge scope for new product development — as well as the considerable consumer demand — for items tailored to the country’s ageing population.
At present, 26% of Japan’s population is over 65, a figure that is projected to rise to 40% over the next couple of decades.
"We have always had business with products for people who need care," said strategic marketing manager, Japan, Hiroshi Tanaka. “But now we need to help people who are living longer (to) live more healthily.”
Among the concepts on display were applications for the dairy, bakery, beverage, confectionery and supplement sectors.
The firm believes that in Japan, it is likely to have the most success with its concepts for yogurt, chocolate and supplements.
For yogurt, it pointed to a study published late last year in the Journal of Nutrition, which displayed how its range of proteins — 25% soy, 25% whey and 50% caseinate — may help overcome muscle loss associated with ageing.
Tanaka also said there was considerable potential for chocolate products fortified with probiotics. Its prototype, which contained 70% cocoa, could also tap into growing consumer awareness about cocoa’s heart health benefits, he added.
Its supplement prototype featured xylitol and a blend of stabilisers, which have been shown to help prevent oral cavities and bad breath.
According to DuPont's Japan sales leader Nobuaki Tsukagoshi, there will be considerable scope to expand the ‘smart ageing’ concept across Asia-Pacific.
“First, we will focus on Japan, but then we have ageing populations in Korea and China, then Singapore and then India. There will be 900 million older people in Asia by 2050,” he said.
“We are leading this from Japan because there is already a big need.”
He added that manufacturers were currently somewhat unsure of which areas to innovate in, hence the broad range of prototypes on offer this week.
“Customers are still not sure what direction to go in, even though they see the need. That’s why we are taking different approaches with our customers to help them develop the right products.”
Tanaka added that consumer research undertaken in Japan showed wide understanding of the gut health benefits of probiotics among the elderly population.
“However, there was still limited understanding about other benefits,” he added. “I think there is a lot of potential to increase awareness around immunity, because this is one of the main concerns for consumers. This is another option for our customers to focus on.”
He added that Japan’s Food with Function Claims (FFC) rules, introduced in 2015, had created more opportunities for manufacturers to make ageing-related claims on their products.
“These are less costly and time consuming than the FOSHU system, so we are working with customers to benefit from these.”