This comes on the back of the COVID-19 pandemic which has brought uncertainty to businesses worldwide, including Morinaga Milk.
However, what was certain was the heightened interest in immunity and health, where the company hopes to conduct research and incorporate its functional ingredients into consumer products to meet changing demands.
Morinaga Milk produces its own proprietary ingredients such as probiotics and lactoferrin, as well as consumer products including infant formula, milk, beverages and yoghurts.
In its yoghurt initiative, the company in June launched its shelf-stable iron yoghurt which contains 4.6mg of iron to prevent iron deficiency. The product is targeted for women in their 30s and 40s.
According to IndexMundi, about 21% of Japanese women suffer from anaemia, with the numbers even higher for iron-deficiency. Iron is important for oxygen transport and energy metabolism.
The National Health and Nutrition Survey in 2014 in Japan reported that RDA for iron should reach 10.5mg/day for women, but the actual intake was only 6.6mg/day.
The company hopes to expand the scope of its yoghurt range with more functional benefits to meet changing consumer trends.
In October last year, it launched aloe power yoghurt, which claims to be the first yoghurt in Japan with skin moisturising function. Following this, in April this year, the firm launched its Bihidas Yogurt Consciousness Improvement yoghurt, touted to be the first in the country to relieve constipation symptoms.
In addition to yoghurt NDP, the company is also focusing on its lactoferrin research to explore the functional benefits especially in immunity. Lactoferrin is a component in the immune system thought to play a role in infection prevention.
Morinaga Milk recently published a study in collaboration with Shinshu University reporting that its lactoferrin-fortified growing up formula can reduce acute gastrointestinal and respiratory symptoms in children.
The randomised controlled trial recruited 101 children between 12 to 32 months. The treatment group was given a formula containing 48mg of lactoferrin, while the placebo group had a formula containing dextrin. They were placed on the intervention for 13 weeks and followed-up for two weeks.
The study reported that acute gastrointestinal symptoms (diarrhoea, vomiting, fatigue) was significantly lower in the treatment group than placebo (p<0.05) during the intervention phase.
Acute respiratory symptoms such as cough, nasal secretion and fever were also significantly lesser in the treatment group post-intervention period (p<0.05).
Researchers said this study provided important evidence on the beneficial effects of lactoferrin for healthy child development.
With the recent growing interest in immunity, Mitsunori Watanabe, manager of public relations at Morinaga Milk told us it would continue its research on lactoferrin as well as its bifidobacterium BB536, which had been studied on its immunity effects too. In autumn 2020, the firm is expected to roll out its follow-up milk Morinaga Chil-mil containing bifidobacteria.
Aiming to match the pace in society, the company is accelerating its e-commerce efforts, by setting up an e-commerce division earlier in January, even before the pandemic hit.
It is implementing O2O measures in collaboration with drug stores and strengthening the presence of its new products through e-commerce.
For example, its shelf-stable iron yoghurt was launched last month on e-commerce. According to Watanabe: “(not needing refrigeration) makes the product convenient and suitable for sale on e-commerce.”
From Earth to Space
Morinaga’s initiatives are not only limited on Earth. It recently received approval from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) for its adult milk powder as a space food.
Milk Life is the first product from Morinaga Milk to be approved as a space food, having passed the stringent 1.5 years of storage test. Milk Life is a milk powder formula for adults launched in 2016.
According to Watanabe, Milk Life (space) contain the same ingredients as those sold on Earth, including vitamins, minerals, DHA, lactoferrin and Bifidobacterium longum BB536.
Source: Frontiers in Pediatrics
“Effects of Lactoferrin-Fortified Formula on Acute Gastrointestinal Symptoms in Children Aged 12–32 Months: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Trial”
Authors: Noriko Motoki, et al.