Fuji Oil, Amano Enzyme & Nissin Foods Lead Japan’s Surge in Alt Protein Patent Rankings

By embracing innovation, Japanese companies are expanding their foothold in the alternative protein market. Nikkei Asia and the Tokyo-based research firm Patent Result analyzed a report on patents filed by companies and research institutions, giving each a score based on its value.

Their analysis shows that three firms—Fuji Oil, Amano Enzyme, and Nissin Foods Holdings—ranked the 2nd, 6th, and 16th spots (as of April 2024) in the top 20 list of worldwide organizations filing patents related to technologies and methods to produce alternatives to animal products.

What are these patents for?

Fuji Oil

Plant-based dishes made with Fuji Oil's alternatives served at The Hotel New Otani
Plant-based dishes made with Fuji Oil’s alternatives served at the Hotel New Otani © Fuji Oil

According to Nikkei, the soy-protein innovator Fuji Oil holds patents for making plant-based butter and cheese. Fuji Oil employs a patented specialized Ultra Soy Separation process to make plant-based cheese and create low-fat soy milk and cream, eliminating the typical beany flavor while retaining the natural taste. 

The company has developed various cream and semi-hard plant-based cheeses for bakers and sweets manufacturers. Its products are famous in bakery products and food service applications, such as pizza toppings and creamy sauces in Japan. It’s cheese alternative, Soy Delice, has also succeeded in Southeast Asia. 

Fuji Oil Group has worked with soy protein for over 50 years and has an extensive portfolio, from binding agents to replace egg protein to textured soy protein for plant-based meat using its MIRACORE technology. In 2019, the company unveiled an alternative to sea urchins.

Plant-based milk
© Amano Enzymes

Amano Enzyme

Amano Enzyme, a major supplier of specialty enzymes with subsidiaries in the USA, Europe, and Asia, has applied for a patent to treat plant proteins for milk alternatives with enzymes to make them creamy, smooth, and sweeter.

In addition, the company offers enzyme solutions for plant-based cheese, yogurt, and meat, while its healthcare and nutritional division produces enzymes for supplements and medical products.

“Plant-based dairy is increasingly sought after by consumers, but consumers want a non-dairy alternative that can match cow’s milk’s protein content, taste, and mouthfeel, which can present some unique challenges for manufacturers,” Amano Enzymes states on its website

Plant-Based Grilled Eel for Day of Ox in Japan
© Nissin Food Holdings

Nissin Foods

Instant ramen giant Nissin Foods Holding holds patents in soy and wheat-based meat alternatives and processes that mimic the flavor of meat and fish using plant-derived proteins, according to the analysis.

According to the company, it has acquired 482 patents in Japan and 746 patents overseas to create its delicious, healthy, and environmentally friendly range of products. Last year, the company launched a plant-based version of “kabayaki” grilled eel for the Day of Ox commemoration, when the eel is the center of the stage. 

The company is conducting R&D on cultivated meat in collaboration with the University of Tokyo. It says the technology is a “potential solution to future food shortages and global warming.”

Nestle white fish
© Nestlé

Patents outside of Japan

Swiss food giant Nestlé, which topped the organization’s ranking, holds a patent to create a plant-based protein that resembles the appearance and texture of meat. Leveraging its experience in plant-based alternatives, Nestlé is also advancing research into cultivated meat in collaboration with Believer Meats (previously Future Food Technologies) to create sustainable, nutritious, and tasty products in line with consumer trends toward reducing animal product consumption for welfare, health, and environmental reasons. 

Meanwhile, Jiangnan University, the highest-ranked Chinese institution at eighth place, owns a patent for using amino acids to enhance the meat-like taste of plant-based protein. Nikkei Asia says the university has steadily risen in rankings from 81st in 2010.

“The No. 1 country as of the end of April was the US with a combined 4,340 points, followed by Japan with 2,570 points, Switzerland with 1,740 points and China with 1,651 points,” Nikkei Asia reports.

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