The company, which started operations on April 1, was established as part of Asahi's medium-term management policy. With the opening of the new company, Asahi Group will consolidate the functions of the R&D centre of the parent company and transfer it to AQI.
The new firm, which is located in the Ibaraki prefecture — away from the company's HQ in the Tokyo prefecture — will focus on five key areas, namely, to establish a pillar of new business via R&D, to develop new health food ingredients, to promote R&D, to contribute to an ethical business model (such as reducing environmental impact), and to create new businesses.
In terms of health foods ingredients, it will deepen its knowledge of yeast and lactic acid bacteria. At present, it is using proprietary lactic acid bacteria strain for Calphis, Japan’s first lactic acid soft drink.
In addition, it plans to bring its R&D beyond conventional means, such as utilising AI.
Asahi Group had conducted a trial on the use of AI in September last year and found that it was able to improve production process, which is expected to help save JPY$200m (US$ 1.79m) due to the reduction of long-term inventory items.
Since January this year, it had adopted AI in all beverage production plans and consignee plants and aims to adopt full scale AI operation in July.
"In soft drinks markets, supply and demand levels differ much depending on months (and seasons), so AI is helpful to forecast production levels," a spokesman from Asahi Group told NutraIngredients-Asia.
“By making the R&D function an independent new organisation, we will improve decision-making freedom and agility, and will concentrate resources on research issues and new businesses based on group strategies,” the firm added.
Other than opening a new innovations firm, Asahi Group has also injected new funds to promote R&D in tertiary institutions in Japan.
Amounting to JPY$18.4m (US$165k), the Asahi Group Foundation for Academic Promotion announced late last month that it will be supporting 23 research projects.
The 23 projects were selected from 158 applications after rigorous screening by the selection committee.
These research focuses on four key areas, namely life science, cultural studies, global environment science, and sustainable economics.
Some of the research concerning health food ingredients include the study of fatty acids and probiotics to alleviate atherosclerotic plaques by the National Cardiovascular Research Centre Research Institute and the study of food ingredients in preventing inflammatory bowel disease by Nagoya University.
As for sustainable economics, research which were awarded with grants include the study of eco-manufacturing by the Shibaura Institute of Technology and the effects of food banks in cutting food loss by Osaka City University.
Since 1985, the foundation had provided 652 grants amounting to about JPY$508m (US$4.55m).