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South Korea Health Functional Ingredient Recognition: Recap and Analysis

Korean MFDS recognized 45 application cases of health functional ingredients in 2022, doubling that in 2021. Regarding functionality, joint health enhancement accounts for the most, followed by weight loss and skin health enhancement. What trend can be seen from these data? What shall enterprises do? ChemLinked suggestions are included in the last part of this article.

The health functional food market in South Korea has been rapidly growing in recent years, driven by the increasing awareness of health and the growing number of silver consumers. The demand on various products accelerates the R&D on new functional ingredients. The application cases of health functional ingredients recognized by Ministry of Food and Drug Safety (MFDS) in 2022 is forty-five, doubling that in 2021

Background information

Health functional foods' safety and quality control is achieved by regulating through functional ingredients in South Korea. MFDS has notified twenty-nine functional ingredients and sixty-eight functional raw materials in the Health Functional Food Code1. To manufacture or sell health functional foods with non-notified ingredients, the business entity shall apply for individual recognition for the effectiveness and safety of the relevant materials. If the enterprises intend to claim a new efficacy of the noticed functional ingredient, approval from the authority is required as well.

In 2022, MFDS passed forty-five applications for functional ingredients. The details are as below:

No.IngredientsEfficacyCompany or institutionNote
1Vaccinium uliginosum L. fruits extract powderMay help to maintain skin health from skin damage by UV CH Labs
May help to maintain skin moisturizing
2 Taheebo extract(Tabetri®)May help to maintain joint and cartilage healthCOSMAX NBT
3Andrographis paniculata Wall. ex Nees ExtractMay help to maintain healthy joint BL Healthcare Corp.
4Yellow rice with Aspergillus terreus(Aspergillus fermented MK01)May help to reduce blood cholesterol levelsDAESANG
5Low molecular weight collagen peptide SHMay help to moisturize (dry) skin SUHEUNG
May help to maintain good skin health by protecting against damage from UV exposure
6Low molecular weight collagen peptide GTMay help to moisturize (dry) skin GELTECHAdditional application 
May help to maintain good skin health by protecting against damage from UV exposure
7Adenophora triphylla var. Japonica Hara extractMay help to reduce body fatDONG IL Pharmtec Co., Ltd.
8Fermented germinated soybean extractMay help to maintain female health in menopauseHUBIO, Co., Hu.
9Black raspberry extract powderMay help to regulate blood pressureFOODPOLIS
10 Black raspberry extract powderMay help to regulate blood pressureBERRY & BIOFOOD RESEARCH INSTITUTEAdditional application 
11Aster glehni extract powderMay help to improve cognitive function affected by agingKOREA EUNDAN
12Terminalia chebula Retzins ExtractMay help to maintain joint and cartilage healthNUON
13Extract complex of Lemon verbena and Hibscus(TETREⓇ)May help to reduce body fatNOVAWells
14Mixture of L. plantarum CECT 7527, CECT 7528 and CECT 7529May help to reduce blood cholesterol levelsSUHEUNG
15Mixture of L. plantarum CECT 7527, CECT 7528 and CECT 7529May help to improve bowel movementsSANOPI-AVENTIS KOREAAdditional application 
16Bacillus coagulans Unique IS-2 ProbioticsMay help to improve bowel movementsNutrione
17Boswellia serrata Extract(SERRATRIN)May help to maintain joint and cartilage healthEVERSPRING Co.,Ltd.
18Ethanol extract powder of Diospyros kaki leavesMay help to maintain eye health by relieving drynessWhanInPharm 
19Fermented L-glutamate GABA powderMay help to improve sleep qualityAMOREPACIFIC
20Weissella cibaria JW15 ProbioticsMay help to improve immune functionNational Institute of Agricultural Sciences
21Lactobacillus plantarum HAC01 Probiotics  May help to suppress the increase of blood glucose level after mealsAtoGEN
22Extract complex of Lemon balm and Dandelion(LD100)May help to protect liverPhytonutrimedi
23Extract complex of Lemon balm and Dandelion(LD100)May help to protect liverCNS PHARM KOREA CO.,LTD Additional application 
24Stemed Zingiber officinale Roscoe ExtractMay help to maintain healthy stomach by protecting gastric mucosaSD Biotechnologies 
25Anthriscus sylvestris(L.) Hoffm Leaf ExtractMay help to maintain healthy joint Natural Cure
26Extract complex of Cornus officinalis and Ribes fasciculatumMay help to reduce body fatNINE B Co., Ltd.  
27Ashwagandha extract(ShodenⓇ)May help to improve sleep qualityCOSMAX NS
28Rhapontic Rhubarb root extractMay help to maintain female health in menopauseONATRA Co., Ltd.Additional application 
29Complex of Lutein and Zeaxanthin extracted from Tagetes erecta L.May support eye health by maintaining the density of macular pigmentsaffected by agingAhn-Gook Health Co., Ltd.Additional application 
30Tremella fuciformis Extract PowderMay help to improve cognitive function affected by agingPulmuone Health&Living
31Vitis labrusca L. Leaf ExtractMay help to improve blood circulation by inhibiting platelet aggregationHANPOONG PHARM Co.,Ltd 
32Lactobacillus plantarum TWK10 ProbioticsMay help to improve endurance of exercise performance capabilityCOSMAX NS
33Red ginseng Oil(KGC11o)May help to maintain healthy prostateKorea Ginseng Corporation
34Heat treated green tea extractMay help to improve memoryAMOREPACIFIC
35Weissella cibaria JW15 ProbioticsMay help to immune functionHuons FoodienceAdditional application 
36 Aster spathulifolius Leaf ExtractMay help to reduce body fatNOVAWellsAdditional application 
37Andrographis paniculata Wall. ex Nees ExtractMay help to maintain healthy joint ACROM Additional application 
38Bonito Elastin Peptide(VGPG Elastin®)May help to maintain skin moisturizing DAEHAN CHEMTECH Co.,Ltd
May help to maintain skin health against skin damage by UV radiation
39Complex of Krill oil, Hematococcus extract and Sodium hyaluronateMay help to maintain healthy jointNOVAREX
40Lespedeza cuneata G. Don extractMay help to maintain male health in menopause NATURAL WAY CO.,LTD
41 Krill Oil(FJH-KO)May help to maintain healthy jointFrombio
42Scrophularia buergeriana Miquel ExtractMay help to improve memory NUON
43Complex of Lactobacillus plantarum C29 Probiotics and fermented soybean powder(DW2009)May help to improve cognitive function affected by agingDONGWHA Pharm
44Bokbunja powderMay help to protect body from oxidative stressFOODPOLIS
45Bacillus coagulans Unique IS-2 ProbioticsMay help to improve bowel movementsJyglobalfoods Co., LtdAdditional application 

(*"Additional Application" refers to the application for new efficacy of the recognized ingredient or the application for using the recognized ingredients by new enterprises.)

Amongst the applications for functional ingredients, thirty-five cases are for the recognition of new functional materials, reaching the peak of new ingredient application in the recent decade (See Figure 1).

Figure 1. Functional Material Recognition Tendency, data source- MFDS.jpg

(Figure 1. Functional Material Recognition Tendency, data source: MFDS2)

Until 2014, the proportion of imported ingredients among the recognized functional ingredients was high at about 70%, but since 2015, the proportion of domestic ingredients has been increasing, accounting for more than 50% (See Figure 2). The increase in the recognition rate of Korean domestically developed functional ingredients was achieved due to the state’s supports for functional ingredients R&D and the improvement of standardization technology for ingredients through the gradual mandatory establishment of Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP).

figure-2-functional-material-recognition-cases.jpg

(Figure 2. Functional Material Recognition Cases, data source: MFDS2)

In terms of ingredients’ efficacies, “joint health enhancement” accounts for the most, followed by “weight loss”, “skin health”, “cognitive function improvement”, and “blood cholesterol reduction” (See Figure 3).

functional-ingredient-recognition-data-analysis.jpg

(Figure 3. Efficacies of the Recognized Functional Ingredients 2022, data source: MFDS2)

Seen from the status of efficacy recognition for health functional foods in the last five years, the most applied efficacies are body fat reduction (44 cases), skin health (37 cases), immune enhancement (26 cases), liver health (17 cases), and menopausal health care for women (15 cases). However, the application status in 2022, with muscle strength improvement (5 cases), memory improvement (3 cases), and cognitive function improvement (3 cases) in an uptrend, indicates that the industry shows a growing interest in the R&D on functionalities that can benefit the elderly and other specific groups.


Top 5 High-Profile Functional Ingredients 

According to the 2022 food manufacturing records, the most produced functional ingredients in descending order are red ginseng, vitamins and minerals, probiotics, EPA/DHA oil, and protein.   

Functional Ingredients

Value of Production

(Unit: 100 million KRW, about 74,714 USD)

Red ginseng

5,896

Vitamins and minerals

3,817

Probiotics

3,642

EPA/DHA oil

2,233

Protein

807

Red ginseng, which has taken the top spot in the market for the past 5 years, is made by ginseng aged four years or more. It can help improve immunity, blood circulation, memory, provide antioxidant effects, and aid in women's health during menopause.

Vitamins and minerals are supplements that provide various vitamins such as folic acid, zinc, and others. Vitamins and minerals can contribute to antioxidant effects and enhance immune function.


Probiotics promote the growth of beneficial bacteria and inhibit harmful bacteria, which can help with smooth bowel movements and intestinal health.


EPA DHA oil is extracted from fish, algae, and other marine sources. It can help improve blood triglyceride levels, blood circulation, memory, and eye health.


Protein, which has gained attention particularly among the health-conscious MZ generations, can assist in the formation of body tissues such as muscles, enzymes, hormones, and antibodies.


Noteworth Points 

The increase of functional ingredient recognition in 2022 reflects the health revitalization in South Korea, showing the fact that more players enter the market. The entry of various products has brought different products and provided more options for consumers. However, at the same time, the health functional food market would truly become more competitive, especially for imported products. With numerous players in the market, overseas enterprises should be aware of the market share that may be taken by the Korean domestic products that have more popularity among Korean citizens and are at low prices. Innovation in product development and unique marketing strategies can help enterprises differentiate their products and gain market share. 

Regulatory compliance is also an essential point. The Korean government has strict regulations governing the health functional food market. Selling non-compliance products is prohibited in South Korea and the seller will face a heavy administrative penalty. Compliance also means safety and brand reputation. As Korean consumers are highly brand-conscious, a strong brand can be a significant differentiator in the market. A trustworthy brand image can be a substantial differentiator in the market. Therefore, enterprises are suggested to familiarize themselves with the relevant laws and ensure their products meet the required standards. 


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