Vitamin K2 & Asia: Global Impact, Local Solutions


Launching a vitamin K2 product provides brands a unique opportunity to benefit from a rapidly growing market segment, and Kappa Bioscience views Asia as the next big growth region. Kappa is investing heavily to bring the benefits of K2 to Asian consumers, and in product forms tailored to suit local needs and preferences. 

Vitamin K2: Vitamin K2 is an essential vitamin that mediates the function of calcium in the body. Calcium is essential for bone health, whether for growing children or aging populations at risk for bone diseases like osteoporosis. Too much calcium in the body, however, can negatively affect cardiovascular health. Excess calcium that is not used for bone building can be deposited in arteries, increasing the risk of heart attack and stroke. Vitamin K2 balances calcium for life-long health. 

K2 activates the osteocalcin proteins which integrate calcium into bone. Without K2, calcium can’t do its job effectively. K2 also activates matrix Gla proteins (MGP) which bind excess calcium in the body. This prevents unhealthy calcium deposit in the cardiovascular system. Vitamin K2 is deficient in most diets and needs to be supplemented. There are several types of vitamin K2, but the most effective form for protein activation is vitamin K2 MK-7. 

Kappa Bioscience of Olso, Norway is the global market leader in vitamin K2, offering K2 MK-7 under the brand name K2VITAL®. Growth of the vitamin K2 category in Europe and North America has be rapid. In a little over a decade vitamin K2 has entered mass-markets and is now widely available in supermarkets and pharmacies. Kappa has now turned its full attention to Asia. 2019 will mark Kappa’s second year as an exhibitor at Vitafoods Asia, and Kappa continues to work on tailored market solutions for APAC-region countries. 

Success launching vitamin K2 in a new market can be described as the achievement of four critical requirements.  These include Compelling Science, Consumer Awareness, Convenient Dosage and Price. Kappa’s experience, however, demonstrates that successful K2 introduction to a new country or region may require some customization. Commercial solutions must fit local demographic needs and customer preferences. Kappa has found this especially true in the geographically and culturally diverse APAC region that span such differing countries such as Australia, India, Japan and Thailand. In response Kappa has created special solutions and collaborates with local experts to aid in country-by-country K2 introduction. 

Compelling Science: A solid body of science backs vitamin K2. Over 20 clinical trials demonstrate the bone health and heart health benefits of vitamin K2. In many countries these translate directly to into health claims that are included on consumer packaging. For example, K2 MK-7 has 17 claims that are in accordance with US FDA guidelines for bone health, cardiovascular health, children’s health and sports nutrition. K2 is also under investigation for oral health, cancer prevention, diabetes, and brain/cognitive benefits, and it even shown for the health & beauty category for skin health and the prevention of varicose veins. 

Health claims, however, and use of K2 in consumer products are subject to local oversight and the regulation. Kappa has invested heavily to bring K2 to market in APAC-region countries. In India, for example, Kappa’s microencapsulated K2VITAL® DELTA product recently received drug approval and an import license as a drug. These approvals revolutionize how physicians can prescribe vitamin K2 for bone diseases like osteoporosis. In Thailand Kappa is currently working with local experts to establish the approvals required to allow full access to this thriving market and the full benefits of K2 to Thai consumers.   

Growing Consumer Awareness and Demand: When Kappa first introduced K2 to global markets about a decade ago, K2 was primarily successful in smaller niche-market channels, such as among health practitioners. Over the years, Kappa has overcome commercial growth obstacles such as price, stability in formulation, scalability, and consumer awareness to build the market. Through leading global and regional brands, K2 has moved from niche to mass market in Europe and the US, and this trend is now fully underway in Asian markets. Consumer familiarity of vitamin K2 in some markets now exceeds that of other popular supplements like curcumin, prebiotics, CoQ10 and astaxanthin.  K2’s function is also closely connected with vitamin D3. K2 sales are projected in fact to match those vitamin D3 – a market that started in the 1990s and is expected to reach USD 2.5 billion by 2021. Vitamin K2 is on track to become the ‘next D3.’

Products to Meet Local Consumer Preferences (Dose & Formulation): K2 offers unlimited dose and formulation opportunities, which enables K2 inclusion in product forms that can be tailored to local markets. A daily dose between 75µg and 380µg is small enough for inclusion into all delivery systems. And by putting the body’s available calcium to work more efficiently, vitamin K2 provides consumers the option of reducing calcium intake from diet or supplementation. Dosage flexibility has proved particularly important in the success of K2 launches local markets. Regional consumers typically have established preferences regarding supplement consumption, and the wide differences among APAC- region countries only increase the requirements of helping brands introduce K2 in successful consumer products. 

Not all consumers are equal, and not all are best-served by traditional capsules or tablets. As such, in 2019 Kappa developed and published the fourth edition of the K2 Formulation LookBook. The LookBook is a recipe book for K2 products that includes over 130 formulation concepts that target six consumer types. It includes innovative dosage formats including drops, gums, film strips and even chocolate. The fourth edition of the LookBook includes several formulations tailored for Asian markets and Kappa continues R&D investments that will benefit Asian consumers. 

Countries such as Thailand and Vietnam, for example, lead the way in in fortified beverages which address a wide range of consumer types. Beverage products represent a perfect vehicle to introduce K2 to these markets, and in fact K2 is currently included in many Vietnamese beverage products. In countries like Vietnam and Thailand milk consumption is generally low, and many people experience vitamin D3 and calcium deficiencies. Malnutrition and stunted growth in children are quite high. K2 addresses this by making D3 and calcium more effective. As such, K2 is becoming a popular component in milk powder formulation, often in combination with calcium and D3.  Dairy companies in this region are investing significantly on customer education and new K2 product launches targeting women, mothers with children, adults and the elderly. Beverage markets provide an exceptional growth opportunity for K2 and Kappa will working toward these ends in both global and Asian markets. 

A Bright Future for K2: The bone and heart health benefits of vitamin K2 MK-7 apply to every consumer type. Men and women, adults and children, young and old all require K2 different reasons. Most diets are deficient, and supplementation is proven to activate the K2-dependent proteins which provide health benefits. Still, the success and impact of even an essential vitamin are largely dependent on the ability to customize product solutions to local requirements and consumer preferences. In September Kappa Bioscience will exhibit at Vitafoods Asia to build upon efforts in bringing vitamin K2 to Asian markets, and to have conversations about solutions for Asian consumers. The future for K2 is bright, and K2 is well on its way to becoming ‘the next D3’ in global markets.