TOKYO -- Japan's Takeda Pharmaceutical will spend 3 billion yen ($28 million) to double production capacity for Alinamin, its mainstay vitamin supplements.
Backed by growing demand from overseas tourists, Takeda is aggressively pushing its Alinamin brand in Asia. Purchases from visitors helped lift the product's sales higher for the fifth straight year in the period ended March 2016. The move is partly driven by the company's plan for exports to China.
In fiscal 2015, sales of Alinamin lineup climbed 13% on the year to 40.1 billion yen, accounting for half the company's sales in its consumer health care business. Alinamin comes in two forms: tablets and drinks. Tablets saw the strongest growth, with sales logging a year-on-year rise of 20%. They made up slightly more than 60% of the brand's sales.
In Asia, the supplement made its debut in Taiwan in 2012, followed by Thailand in 2014. But sales volume has been modest. According to a Takeda official, Alinamin's overseas sales are very thin. That prompted Takeda to shift its focus to China. The Japanese drugmaker plans to establish sales networks in China's southern provinces since these are close to Hong Kong and Macau, which Takeda entered last year.
The Osaka-based company aims to have Alinamin on the mainland market within three years, pending approval from Chinese regulators. It hopes sales in China will eventually be close to the level of the Japanese market.
Takeda will open a new production line for sugarcoating tablets at its plant in Fukuchiyama, Kyoto, by April 2017. That will double capacity to 2.4 billion tablets a year,.
Despite a shrinking domestic market, Takeda's consumer health care business has grown by more than 5% a year over the past six years. But Japan's falling population will constrain its future growth unless it can sell more overseas.
Takeda recently created a subsidiary, Takeda Consumer Healthcare, which will begin operating next spring. Masashi Sugimoto, president of the new unit, said he wants to accelerate the company's expansion. To do that, he will have to boost its business outside Japan quickly.
The pharmacuetical company is also working to expand its prescription drug business, which is another important revenue source.