The Kirin Beverage product – Kirin Mets Cola, pictured – is the first cola to achieve clearance under Japan’s strict Foods for Specified Health Uses (FOSHU) regime, regulated by Japan Health and Nutrition Food Association (JHNFA).
Kirin Beverages said that the cola – launched in Japan on April 24 nationwide in 480ml PET bottles, with a suggested retail price of 150 yen (€1.54) without value-added-tax (VAT) – was mixed with an indigestible dextrin ingredient that reduced fat absorption during a meal.
Coke Zero, Pepsi NEXT, Kirin Mets Cola...
JHFNA was unavailable for comment as we went to press, but a spokesman told our sister site FoodNavigator-Asia.com: “The key factor here is that, when consumed as part of a diet with a high amount of fat, the cola slows down the body’s ability to absorb fat.”
Due to runaway demand the company announced on May 15 that it was ramping-up production and Japanese sales targets for the drink from an initial one million cases per year, and apologised to customers and suppliers for any inconvenience due to shortages.
The company said it topped 50% of its annual sales goal in just two days following the launch, with the cola targeted at ‘health conscious adults’, specifically males aged 30 and over, who were more interested in healthy eating.
Kirin Group also claims that the beverage contains no sugar, although (with Kirin Beverages unavailable for comment as we went to press) it is unclear what sweetening system is used.
US alpha-dextrin research
Discussing Kirin Group’s Q1 2012 results on May 2, an unnamed Kirin Beverage executive promised more innovations.
“In future, we will raise the percentage of high added value products such as Kirin Mets Cola, a food for specified health use release on April 24, while reinforcing core products,” he said.
In August 2008, researchers Catherine Jen and Joseph Artiss at Wayne State University assessed the effects of a like dextrin ingredient – corn-derived fibre Alpha-Fibe FBCx (alpha-dextrin) – on animals and found reduced blood lipid levels and also lower saturated and trans-fatty acid blood levels.
Although Jen and Artiss warned that the fibre offered no silver bullet – stressing the importance of healthy eating and exercise – they said it was its able to bind nine times its own weight in dietary fat.
This meant the removal of 25-30% per cent of calories and 50-60% of fat from a typical US diet, the researchers said; they have since commercialised Alpha-Fibre FBCx in tablet form.