The market for dietary supplements is growing rapidly in Japan, a fact evident in the sheer number of products filling up the shelves.

The needs of the health conscious consumer are being fed by convenience store operators, whose products are increasingly giving up shelf space for nutrient enriched snack and drinks, or dietary supplements.

Producers of supplements, such as Fancl Corp, admit that they see convenience stores as the ideal selling station. The stores help to boost public recognition of the products, which is otherwise constrained by the legislation that prevents companies marketing beneficial effects. If it were not for the wide market producers can reach through popular convenience stores, the industry would be wholly reliant on descriptive brand names to encourage consumer interest.

Also the supplements are often cheaper at convenience stores than elsewhere, adding to their popularity. Nevertheless, daily sales of supplements manufactured by DHC Japan Co in every Three F convenience outlet often reach up to ¥3,000. The same supplements were also introduced to Hot Spar stores last year.

Convenience chain giant, Seven-Eleven Japan stocks 17 different dietary supplements, including vitamins, collagen and appetite suppressants, all manufactured by Fancl. An official from the store revealed that they were introduced after consumers began to exhibit a preference for stewed vegetable meals over fried foods.

Anxious not to loose shelf space, traditional foods manufacturers are also taking heed from consumer preference. Nutrition enhanced snacks such as Otsuka Pharmaceutical‘s Calorie Mate bars have long been popular but a new generation of snacks are hoping to gain from the interest in the market. The Pure In range, by House Foods Corp, includes biscuits with black sesame seeds, and Meiji Seika Kaisha Ltd has introduced a Perfect Plus range.

The trend appears set then to continue towards the health-conscious purchase, but the government is anxious that the proliferation of healthy-sounding products may soon begin to confuse consumers. It has announced a change in the certification procedure of health foods and supplements, to be instituted this spring. It has also admitted that the current lack of governmental guidance is not ideal, and will let manufacturers make claims of beneficial effects.