China’s ageing population underscores major opportunities in the country’s nutrition space, which Megmilk aims to tap into.
According to World Health Organization (WHO), the number of people aged 60 years and above in China is projected to reach 28% by 2040.
“We have been selling coffee creamer and milk-based raw materials in China since 1997. This is the first time we are introducing our proprietary functional ingredient, MBP (which stands for Milk Basic Protein), to the market,” Dr Juan Li from Megmilk’s Overseas Strategy Group told NutraIngredients-Asia.
The ingredient, which claims to have multiple benefits for bone health, was officially launched at the recent Hi & Fi Asia-China in Shanghai.
In Japan, the product is targeted at the middle-aged and elderly — the same group of consumers that the firm is eyeing in China.
While the market opportunity in China is huge, Megmilk recognised that competition is stiff as a result.
“We believe that the quality of our MBP ingredient — the only one of its kind in the world —can overcome the competition and benefit local consumers. It is backed by solid science-based evidence, as we have conducted many clinical trials to prove its efficacy.
“Furthermore, it has been recognised as safe in the US, and accepted as a Health Functional Food ingredient in South Korea. In Japan, several products that MBP is applied in have been listed under Foods for Specified Health Uses and Foods with Function Claims (FFC). This adds to our brand credibility as well,” said Hiroko Takeda, manager of Megmilk’s International Department.
The firm had also previously collaborated with Kirin to develop a yoghurt-flavoured drink, which is a FFC for memory care.
“The Chinese population may not be familiar with MBP’s function and benefits yet, so it might take some time to raise awareness, but we hope to grow as quickly as possible. Our strategies include consumer research, participating in trade shows, and conducting presentations and seminars for industry players,” Dr Li shared.
Plans in the pipeline
MBP is a natural protein present in trace amounts in bovine and human milk that possesses several bioactive functions researched and discovered by Megmilk.
Its most important characteristics are its ability to increase bone-forming osteoblast cells and regulate the activity of bone-destroying osteoclast cells.
Even when an appropriate amount of calcium is ingested, the nutrient will not be efficiently absorbed into the bones if the body’s ability to form bone is impaired.
Therefore, MBP acts on bone cells to regenerate and reinforce the bones, making them more receptive to calcium while preventing excessive calcium loss.
Although the ingredient is targeted at the silver generation, especially women with bone health issues due to ageing, Megmilk is planning to carry out further clinical trials to assess its effect in younger people.
It is currently available in South Korea and the US, while the firm is actively expanding its reach in South East Asia and Australia.
“There are various factors that we consider before entering new markets. These include the market size, whether there is a framework for functional ingredients to be notified, and registration requirements,” Dr Li said.
Following the debut of MBP in China, the firm is looking to bring other products, such as probiotics and whey protein hydrolysate, to this market in the future.