The network of the bioindustry of Hokkaido, and cooperation and market expansion with partners.

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Material introduction of functional foods

Konbu, seaweed and Nori, all types of kelp are an ingredient that cannot be omitted when speaking of Japanese food culture. Among all kelp known to Japanese, Konbu is the most familiar. Functional ingredients originating from Konbu include fucoidan, and fucoxanthin, a type of carotenoid, which are expected to shape the market hereafter. Fucoidan now carries the kelp market and is known for its antineoplastic activity, immunity improvement, anti-helicobacter pylori activity, and anti-viral activity. Development is progressing in the areas of creating an edible product to counteract hangovers, and treat metabolic syndrome for athletes. In the cosmetics field, products that appeal to moisturizing and overall beauty are standing out, while its use as an ingredient for hair growth is also gathering attention.
Konbu is a representative type of kelp found in cold currents of the Shincho waters; most of which are produced on the coast of Hokkaido. Konbu which grows in large masses serves as an important eco system for abalone and sea urchin, all of which are important marine resources. Also, marine areas where Konbu grow are considered a desirable environment for fishing as well.
Generally, Konbu is used for the scientific Japanese name for kelp, but is actually the correct and standard Japanese name for that type of kelp. Over 30 types of Konbu grow in the waters along the coasts of Japan. Harvested Hokkaido Konbu includes Makonbu, Rishiri Konbu, Oni Konbu(Rausu Konbu), Hosome Konbu(Thin Konbu), Mitsuishi Konbu(Hidaka Konbu), Naga Konbu (Long Konbu, thick ones are Atsuba Konbu) and Gagome Konbu. Of these, Rishiri and Hidaka Brand Konbu are traded at high prices.
Nutritionally, it is rich in vitamins and minerals not to mention the agonic acid that gives it its slippery texture, dietary fibers, and rich amounts of fucoidan, a polysaccharide. Further, fucoxanthin, a type of carotenoid and typical feature of kelp is drawing attention. Presently it is being used in research concerning prevention of obesity and diabetes, and a market for food products, cosmetics and products in the esthetic world are being shaped.


The main functional ingredient in kelp is fucoidan. Fucoidan is made up of sugars such as glucose and fucose that are attached to linked chains. The ingredients come mainly from Gagome konbu, Mozuku (cladosiphon okamuranus), Wakame, and Mekabu; the structure of fucoidan differs with each type of kelp. For this reason, the raw ingredient makers have researched and gathered data on its effects on antineoplastic action, immunostimulatory action, anti-Helicobacter pylori action, anti-viral action, hair growth, beauty (moisturizers) and so forth, according to the type of origin. The greatest feature of fucoidan is its ability to shape the market with different selling points according to origin. Substantial evidence has backed the positive evaluation of products in the field of substitute medicine. The market offers drinks, powders, pills, extracts and other forms of supplements to teas, candies, milk products and so much more. Recently a new concept concerning products to treat hangovers, athletes and low metabolism is being explored, not to mention the realization of market construction for hair growth products.
From Hokkaido grown kelp, fucoidan is being extracted from Gagome, Makonbu, and Sujime kelp.

Gagome Konbu

Of all the kelp grown, Gagome kelp in the family of tororo konbu, is very delicate concerning its habitat conditions such as water temperature and depth and is harvested mainly along the coast of the Tsugaru Straights off of Hakodate City, Hokkaido. The name is derived from its appearance which resembles a woven basket. Compared to Makonbu, Gagome is harder and slimier, which is why it is made into tororo konbu and used in Matsumaezuke pickles.
Recent research unveiled the fact that compared to other konbu, it contained large amounts of fucoidan, thus the development of products made with fucoidan from Gagome konbu became active. Research showed that when dried, the Gagome konbu contained 5% fucoidan per weight of dried amount.
Between 250 - 300 tons of Gagome konbu are harvested within Hakodate each year. The konbu is harvested between July and October. Presently, natural Gagome konbu is mainstream, however, fishery unions are putting effort into finding ways to increase production through increasing farmed konbu. Gagome konbu is produced and sent out in various shapes; cut in long pieces, bent, root aligned, and irregular. In recent years, irregulars cut in 90 cm pieces are mainstream. In Hakodate, government, industry and academia are cooperating together to organize the Hakodate Marine Bio Cluster and promote products made with Gagome konbu. In the cluster, approximately 40 private industries are included. Over 100 developed products include supplements and cosmetics, Matsumaezuke pickles, Ikamentai, Mentaiko(spicy cod roe) and other marine products, candies like chocolate and caramels, vinegar, soy sauce, dressings, rice toppings, ramen and Natto(fermented beans). Functional research has proven the validity of fucoidan in its use for antineoplastic action, antithrombogenic action, tissue damage repair, hair growth promotion, stimulation of skin cells and antipeptic activity.

List of cooperating industries for this coverage.

The introduced content on Hokkaido's functional food ingredients was brought to you in cooperation with the following industries and products.
Industries Major Products
Hakodate Regional Industry Promotion Organization Gagome Konbu