Functional future: Kirin to double down on immunity beverage range as sales surge in Q1

By Tingmin Koe

- Last updated on GMT

Kirin Oishii Immune Care 100ml six PET bottle pack. ©Kirin
Kirin Oishii Immune Care 100ml six PET bottle pack. ©Kirin

Related tags Kirin iMUSE LC-Plasma

Kirin says that functional drinks from its health science domain are the “particular focus” for its beverage business this year after sales of its LC-Plasma immunity range increased by 8.5 per cent to 1.71 million cases in Q1.

The firm tap on the peak season demand, specifically the summer months between July and September, in launching new products from the Health Science domain.

The company reported an overall 1.8 per cent increase in its beverage revenue to 51.9 billion yen (US$382.3m) during Q1 this year, despite a decline in sales volume across its tea range.

The increase in revenue was driven by the implementation of price revisions last year, as well as growth from its health science domain – where revenue was up 24.8 billion yen (US$182.7m) to 25 billion yen (US$184.1m).

Its health science domain consists of functional beverages, such as its range of iMUSE products containing its proprietary ingredient Lactococcus lactis ​strain plasma, or LC-Plasma.

In contrast to its tea brands Kirin Gogo-no-Kocha and Kirin Nama-cha where sales volume had dropped 2.4 per cent and eight per cent to 11.1 million cases and 4.89 million cases respectively,

Sales volumes of its LC-Plasma beverages had increased 8.5 per cent to 1.71 million cases in Q1 this year. 

One of the latest LC-Plasma related launches is Kirin Plasma Sports​, introduced to the market in April as a Food with Function Claims (FFC) for its immune and hydration benefits.

The firm is also working with FANCL – in which it has a stake in – in launching CaloLimit Blended Tea as part of its health science business in the second half of this year.

“Kirin Beverage reported an increase in revenue, with steady growth from products in the health science domain, which is a particular focus of Kirin Beverage this year,” ​Hiroaki Takaoka, senior executive officer and general manager of the Corporate Strategy Department said during the presentation.

LC-Plasma refers to Lactococcus lactis strain Plasma, ​which is Kirin’s proprietary ingredient and also permitted by Japan Consumer Affairs Agency (CAA) in making immune health claims.

The firm also plans to drive the uptake of LC-Plasma immune care products via advertisements, in-store promotion, and expand the existing range of ‘Kirin Oishii Immune Care’ product.

This product, launched in March​, is only available in 100ml PET bottles.

“As for efforts to improve profitability, the ultra-small PET bottle, ‘Kirin Oishii Immune Care’, which underwent a full renewal at the end of March, including the brand name, has launched in stores along with advertisements promoting the importance of immune care,”​ Takaoka added.

Other functional beverages that the firm had launched earlier this year include Kirin x FANCL Calolimit Apple Sparkling. This is a carbonated beverage that contains indigestible dextrin as dietary fiber and claims to suppress the absorption of sugar and fat.

The other functional beverage launched was amino acid drink Kirin X FANCL Amino Supli Plus containing vitamin C, amino acid arginine and citrulline.

“Against the backdrop of growing health consciousness in recent years, we will support the health of consumers by developing a beverage lineup that leverages FANCL's strengths,”​ Kirin said earlier on.

LC-Plasma and muscle support

On May 23, the firm will be launching Kirin iMUSE Immune Care + Muscle Support as part of its strategy in incorporating LC-Plasma into more products.

This is on the back of the good performance of its existing double health claim products.

LC-Plasma related revenue grew over 20 per cent yoy due to out-licensing as well as the use of LC-Plasma in Kirin’s iMUSE branded products.

Driving immune care awareness

With COVID-19 categorised as Class 5 in Japan from May, Kirin will promote immune care through government and private sector partnership.

Class 5 refers to common infectious disease including seasonal influenza.

“In conjunction with this change, we will promote the awareness of immune care to ‘protect your own health and well-being’ together with national characters, local governments, and companies that implements our product,”​ Takaoka said. 

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