Spreading an Immune Care Habit and Contributing to the Consumers' Health and Well-Being
- Health and Well-Being
In the Long-Term Management Vision, Kirin Group Vision 2027 (KV2027), the Kirin Group has set a goal of creating value across our world of Food & Beverages to Pharmaceuticals as a global leader in CSV. To fulfill the KV2027 goal, we are expanding the scale of the Health Science domain and setting the area of immunity as our highest priority.
Immunity is an important function for living a healthy life. To humans, it could even be called the “foundation of health;” if the foundation crumbles, it will lead to various health issues. However, it is difficult to notice a functional decline in immunity, and the delay of treatment is a major health issue. We think solving this issue would be socially significant.
The world’s first discovery of Lactococcus lactis strain Plasma (LC-Plasma) that directly activates the commander in chief of the immune system
During our research on immunity, we made the world’s first discovery of LC-Plasma, which activates the commander in chief of the immune system that was previously thought to not exist, and published an article in 2012. We have accumulated a large amount of evidence in the form of 31 reports, including those on human studies. In August 2020, using the results of our research, we successfully registered our iMUSE brand, which uses LC-Plasma, as foods with immunity function claims, a first for Japan. LC-Plasma is a lactic acid bacterium that supports the maintenance of the immune functions of healthy people, and it was first announced to the world* through an article that it activates plasmacytoid dendritic cells (pDC). While general lactic acid bacteria activate only some of the immune cells, the LC-Plasma directly activates the pDC, which is the commander in chief of the immune system. The activated pDC then orders the activation of all the immune cells (NK cells, killer T cells, B cells, and T helper cells), facilitating the defense system to work against foreign objects.
Additionally, in contrast to general lactic acid bacteria, LC-Plasma has an effect even when non-viable, which makes it easy to incorporate it into various foods. That’s why we, along with our group and partner companies, have been developing various products in addition to yogurt that uses viable bacteria, such as beverages, supplements, and snacks, and providing the value of LC-Plasma for many consumers.
- World’s first-ever published paper on the effects of Lactic acid bacterium on pDC (Based on ICHUSHI Web and PubMed)
LC-Plasma spreads in Japan and internationally
The Kirin Group expanded the variety of products infused with LC-Plasma (foods with function claims) to 26 by the end of 2022 (there were 17 at the end of 2021). In 2022 L. lactis strain Plasma Series sales grew 40% compared to the previous year due to the large contributions of the expansion of beverages, supplements, and yogurts.
The number of our partner companies in foods with function claims has grown to 6, and the number of products has grown to 12 (3 companies and 7 products at the end of 2021). In 2022 we newly partnered with Nihon Yakken Co., Ltd., Taisho Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd., and TOKIWA Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd., and the companies started selling five new foods with function claims. The products were praised for their good taste and variety, which make it easy to intake LC-Plasma, and it helped to establish an immune care habit and increased the sales of the LC-Plasma products.
As for foods without functional claims, Petio Corp. released 27 new snacks for pets, expanding the total number of products to 37 (10 products at the end of 2021). They are committed to helping us promote immune care, which is also a growing need among consumers with pets.
Furthermore, LC-Plasma bacteria sales have spread internationally. In the US, there are currently seven companies selling nine products, and in Europe sales are expanding into Italy and other countries. Our target international markets are primarily those of North America and Southeast Asia, but there are some regions in Southeast Asia in which we cannot yet sell LC-Plasma due to religious beliefs, so we are aiming to expand into those regions by getting it certified as a Halal product. (We plan to start externally selling Halal raw materials by the end of 2023.)
Focusing on immune care awareness-raising activities and product lineup expansion
Kirin's research uncovered that about 85% of consumers understand immunity is important to their health. On the other hand, the number of people who answered saying they actually have immune care habits was only around 10%, so we see a big gap in those with knowledge and those taking action.
We believe the reason for this gap is that immunity’s hard-to-notice function makes it difficult to feel the importance of immune care and take action, so in order to promote making a habit of caring for immunity, the foundation of health, the Kirin Group persistently works together with the above partner companies to raise awareness. We believe these awareness-raising activities are very significant to society. We also plan to continue expanding our product lineup to create an environment in which people can easily and habitually care for their immunity through our products.
(1) Awareness-raising activities
When it comes to immune care awareness-raising activities, we have been developing a marketing strategy based on consumer needs. We are planning to make a shift to a strategy that places importance on social issues rather than one that is centered around our products and information within the company. Through cooperating with Japanese governments and administrative agencies, and various businesses, organizations, schools, and more, we will spread the awareness of the importance of immune care to accelerate its normalization.
As an example of our efforts, in winter 2022 we partnered with various Japanese tourist organizations to promote safe immune care while traveling. In terms of our mid- to long-term awareness-raising initiatives, we are continuing to develop school classes on immunity to enhance knowledge about immunity among elementary school students.
We believe it is important to have scientific support for immune care so that consumers come to feel the importance of it. The credibility of LC-Plasma has been confirmed through various scientific journals, and we will aim to work on further research and gather more scientific evidence to gain more trust from consumers.
As a result of these initiatives in Japan, the percentage of people aware of the function of LC-Plasma reached 32% at the end of 2022, and the number of people who were consuming it regularly had climbed to 640,000.
(2) Product lineup expansion
In addition to raising awareness of the importance of immune care, we should work to expand our product lineup to make it easier to develop immune care habits. Our partner companies and we are working to develop products of various kinds. We are also expanding the geography of international LC-Plasma bacteria sales.
With the prospect of the future market expansion in Japan and overseas, we are fortifying our production system. We are installing more cultivation tanks, centrifuges, and other equipment necessary to bacteria production at our LC-Plasma bacteria manufacturing plant, which will almost double the current yearly capacity to 28 tons in 2023.
The Kirin Group will continue to cooperate with partner companies to expand LC-Plasma both in Japan and internationally.
Spreading immune care habits together with partner companies and realizing fulfilled lives
As previously mentioned, the sales of L. lactis strain Plasma Series in 2022 grew 40% compared to the previous year. That being said, even though we have excellent technology and materials, the Kirin Group’s efforts alone may not suffice to offer value to a diverse range of consumers. By collaborating with partner companies in various industries who share our aspiration to solve health issues, we aim to develop a wide variety of LC-Plasma products and continue to increase people’s choices and contact with the products, thereby making immune care more accessible to consumers. Going forward, we hope to contribute to the creation of a healthy society, in mind and body, by spreading immune care habits with our partner companies.
The cooperation of our partner companies and us is not limited to the selling of LC-Plasma bacteria. We also collaborate in product development so that we may deliver excellent products that lead to immune care habits for consumers. For example, during our partner companies’ product planning stage, our Institute of Health Sciences offers advice from a technical perspective and provides support for the registration of foods-with-function labeling. This organizational capability to offer such scientific and technical knowledge is one of our strengths, and it allows us to further strengthen our cooperation with our partner companies.
We at the Kirin Group and those at our partner companies will continue to propose appealing products supported by scientific evidence and to promote immune care habits in line with awareness-raising activities. In particular, we will consistently cooperate with our partner companies from academia and research to marketing and work as one to solve health issues.
Immunity is the foundation of human health and is inherent in human nature. We hope that through spreading immune care habits, we will strengthen this innate power and contribute to helping people feel the joy of living to be 100 years old and to the realization of fulfilled lives. We believe that this is how we can truly contribute to the health and well-being of each and every one of consumers.
Manager, Planning Group Health Science Business Department, Health Science Business Division
Joined Kirin Brewery Company, Limited. He was in charge of domestic and international sales and marketing before joining the Health Science Business Department at Kirin Holdings through an internal recruitment process in 2021. He is currently promoting collaboration with partner companies as the one in charge of the strategy of expanding LC-Plasma and other immunity materials.
*Stated information as at the date it is made
Kirin Group is aiming to partner with society in achieving mutual growth byplacing CSV at the core of its management.
We create social value and economic value by solving social issues through our business activities in the Group.Value Creation Model is our business model that amplifies the two values through a sustainable cycle of reinvesting the economic value in our drivers.