See the original story in Japanese.
While Japan has seen the birth of various FoodTech startups, the majority of them have aimed to solve problems related to increasing productivity and the safety of food, or to making food distribution more efficient, as opposed to focusing on food itself. However, the startup this article introduces is edgy enough that we can describe it as being smack dab at the center of FoodTech.
The FoodTech startup Comp is headquartered in Kanda, Tokyo and develops meal replacements. In general, it is difficult for humans to obtain all of our necessary nutrients with only one item of food. With the progression of changing nuclear families, people who live alone, and people who dine out or buy pre-packaged food, it is difficult to maintain well-balanced eating habits. According to the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare’s “Dietary Requirements”, which is the dieticians go to handbook, a complete meal is one that mixes foods from the 6 food groups and 9 essential amino acids in a perfect balance.
The inspiration for making the products comes from Comp’s CEO Yuta Suzuki’s own experiences. Suzuki thought a lot about the importance of consuming complete meals after having suffered a lapse in health due to poor eating habits brought about by losing himself in his work and hobbies. Overseas, although meal replacements such as Soylent have been sold for a while now, they are expensive to import individually, the shipping fee is high, and it is optimized for Westerners who make up the most users, all together making it difficult to obtain in Japan. Also, depending on the case, there are products with additives that are prohibited in Japan, and it is difficult to develop a large-scale parallel import business. Against such a background, Suzuki is striving to develop food products that meet the complete nutritional needs.
Comp developed a powdered meal replacement called Comp Powder and it went on sale in April of 2016. People without time for sleeping and eating, people who are deeply focused on something–specifically, they have received support from engineers living alone, creators, gamers, and men in academia, reaching about 10,000 members who purchase items on a subscription basis in a year and a half. The company does not employ large-scale advertisement, and most of the new customers are organic inflows through word of mouth and social media.
Comp is teaming up with Mikakuto, a big name confectionery manufacturer in Japan, and jointly developed a meal replacement gummy called Comp Gummy, which began selling on Comp’s website in July. Buyers can purchase one 53 gram pack for 250 yen, a sample set of 3 for 500 yen, or 20 packs for 5,000 yen on the website. Because the nutritional value per gram is 3.8 kcal, ingesting 3 packs is equivalent to that of a beef bowl in terms of calories. With Comp powder, users were predominantly men, in partnering with Mikakuto the company is looking to attract a wide range of female customers since Mikakuto has produced a number of gummy products popular among this demographic.
In terms of FoodTech startups in Japan also producing meal replacements, there is Basefood which developed “Complete Nutritive Pasta”. Comp’s competition along this vertical is set to increase, but Suzuki shared that the company’s brand and technology was established around the idea that “Diet, exercise, and rest foster good health,” and he hopes to continue one step ahead of the competitors.
Last year Comp was selected for the Kirin Accelerator 2016, an open innovation program by Japan’s leading brewing company.
Translated by Amanda Imasaka