The “unique” Meiji Hohoemi Raku Raku Cube concept - the world's first and only infant formula in tablet form - could head west as the company's dairy products become "more widely available" across Asia.
Meiji Hohoemi Raku Raku Cube, launched in Japan in 2008, is infant formula in pre-portioned fast dissolving cubes. The product, which currently accounts for 25% of all Japanese infant formula sales, eliminates the need to measure out powder.
Speaking with DairyReporter.com at the Zenith International Infant Nutrition Conference in Paris, Richard Walton, manager of Meiji’s R&D support centre near Tokyo, said that having achieved so much in Japan, the Hohoemi Raku Raku Cube brand may have to look abroad for further growth.
“It might increase a bit more, but 25% of the market is pretty big considering we have altogether 45% of the market if you include our powdered formula. I think it is really hard to think too terribly beyond that. Maybe going outside of Japan would be a nice next step.”
“At the moment, this product is only available in Japan. Our dairy products are becoming more widely available across Asia, and this would be a dairy-related product which would like to see move out at some point.”
“But right now it is only available in Japan.”
Meiji's Hohoemi Raku Raku Cube are manufactured through a process of moulding, humidifying, drying and compressing without any additional additives. This method “means the outside is a little harder than the inside and it readily dissolves,” said Walton.
He added that the 27g cubes, which were launched in Japan in 2008, are “exactly the same composition” as Meiji’s powdered Hohoemi powdered infant formula products.
The concept is protected by an international patent, which means that Meiji is for now the only infant formula manufacturer in the world marketing cubed infant formula.
“It’s unique, it’s the first such product in the world and we have a patent on it, so as of now there are not any other products that have the same composition,” said Walton.
“It still has some way to go, so we’re not running up to the end of the patent just yet.”
But Walton didn’t rule out the possibility of Meiji licensing out the concept to infant formula manufacturers in Europe and the US, where the company has no presence.
“I’m in the R&D section. The people in the international section think about such things. We’ll see what they come up with. But I would like that to happen," he said.
Addressing attendees at the Zenith International Infant Nutrition Conference in Paris, Walton explained that the product was developed through Meiji’s efforts to “anticipate in advance what the consumer needs.”
“One of the very interesting points about this, and it says a lot about the company actually and the way we do things, is that we didn’t have surveys expressing a need for this.”
“We thought it was something that people would respond to," said Walton.
And respond they did.
“Was it a success? It was a huge success," he said. "We started out as being one of the three largest infant formula makers in Japan and after this we went to being the dominant producer in Japan.”
“Now we have 45% of the market and 25% of the market is these cubes which sell at a premium," he added.