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Innovative products compete for share of Japan's pollen allergy prevention market

Products to prevent pollen allergies are sold at Cocokara Fine's Kanda Jinbocho store in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward, on March 1, 2019. (Mainichi/Naoya Matsumoto)

TOKYO -- Manufacturers of masks and anti-allergy products are competing over Japan's "pollen allergy" market, which is worth over 100 billion yen.

One in four Japanese is said to show pollen allergy symptoms. According to a January survey conducted by internet research agency Macromill Inc. of about 1,000 people allergic to cedar pollen, the average annual budget per individual for allergy measures was 4,550 yen. Some 22.7 percent of respondents said their budget was at least 5,000 yen. The budget amount for men exceeded the amount for women in all age groups.

Asked what anti-allergy measures they took (with multiple answers allowed), the largest number of respondents, or 50.9 percent, said they used masks. This was followed by 36.8 percent who chose medical examinations, treatment and prescribed medication. Some 35.7 percent opted for eye drops and 34.5 percent consumed yogurt in a bid to beat allergies.

Following the arrival of the allergy season, products including masks and nose drops to prevent pollen allergies lined the shelves of drugstores and other shops. Drugstore Cocokara Fine Kanda Jinbocho store in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward set up a section for such products in mid-February, when the number of people wearing masks started to increase.

Sprays that can be applied on the face or masks are popular in addition to standard medicine, according to the drugstore.

A cream to prevent pollen from attaching to the skin called "Skin Protect BB" was released in January by cosmetics manufacturer Kose Corp. Last December, daily goods manufacturer S.T. Corp. released a stick-type product that can block pollen when applied to masks. The stick contains extractions of Sakhalin fir and users can enjoy the scent by applying it near the nose on the outside of their masks.

The drugstore also sells a wide selection of masks, including Kowa Co.'s masks with filters that use mesh-patterned extra-fine nanofiber to block particles such as pollen.

Research in 2012 by Asahi Soft Drinks Co. estimated that the anti-pollen allergy market was worth 101.5 billion yen.

Meanwhile, some fear that pollen allergies could cause losses to the economy. This includes Dai-ichi Life Research Institute Inc. chief economist Toshihiro Nagahama, who estimates that consumer spending will decrease by 569.1 billion yen compared to an average year, as people will refrain from going outside during the allergy season.

(Japanese original by Naoya Matsumoto, Business News Department)

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