Sincere Response to Inquiries and Reflection in Company Activities
We recognize that respecting consumer rights is an important human rights issue. Our Declaration of Consumer-oriented Commitment, made in October 2018, establishes basic policies regarding our commitment to our social responsibilities as a corporation, which we fulfill by pursuing consumer-oriented management and making appropriate decisions that are based on dialogue with all stakeholders.
Each group company establishes dedicated customer contact points for patients, healthcare professionals and general consumers, and provides appropriate training for the employees who work there. For example, the assignment of specially trained female operators enables us to better answer inquiries about products designed for women. This approach helps us deepen communication with customers and provide appropriate information. Comments and suggestions regarding products are shared with top management by the related department and reflected in product improvements.
At all company customer contact points, we work closely with related departments within the company. For example, at Otsuka Pharmaceutical, customer feedback is sent in a daily report to the Quality and Production Divisions as well as product managers. We work to foster a consumer-oriented approach by deepening cooperation among departments to ensure an effective response to a problem with a product or service. In addition, when inquiries are received from the National Consumer Affairs Center of Japan or other consumer centers around Japan, related departments and group companies work together to respond and earn the trust of consumers.
We also communicate with stakeholders on our activities at every stage of the value chain so that our business initiatives maintain a consumer-oriented.
Group-wide Customer Service Liaison Meeting
Since 2008, we have held a Group-wide Customer Service Liaison Meeting every year under the supervision of Otsuka Holdings directors. Meetings are attended by representatives of companies in the Pharmaceutical Business, Nutraceutical Business, Consumer Products Business, the daily necessities and e-commerce categories, and well as from other relevant departments. The various companies report on their customer service activities and initiatives for greater consumer orientation, thus fostering our consumer-oriented corporate culture. The 27th meeting, held in 2022, focused on evolving consumer trends amid social changes in the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and best practices for product improvements informed by customer feedback.
Examples of Product Developments and Improvements Based on Customer Feedback
Product Development to Improve Food-related QOL for Those Required Nursing Care
(EN Otsuka Pharmaceutical)
EN Otsuka Pharmaceutical has established a system for sharing customer feedback received at the Consumer-Relations Office with all related departments, including management, in the form of a daily report.
For example, this office received feedback from a family member of a customer requiring nursing care who has been using the iEat® for many years. This product is for people with mastication difficulties and the person was struggling as their physical condition worsened. EN Otsuka Pharmaceutical takes seriously all feedback, and in response, started developing new foods that are softer and retain their shape in the mouth while maintaining the taste and color of traditional iEat®. The new products were launched in July 2021 as “iEat® the shape-maintaining and softened meals”.
Improvement of Containers to Make Them Easier to Hold and Open (Otsuka Pharmaceutical Factory)
OS-1* and OS-1 Jelly* are produced by Otsuka Pharmaceutical Factory. These products are foods for people with medical conditions. We received input from elderly individuals, customers receiving treatment, those in need of nursing care, and others who reported difficulty opening the cap because of weakened muscles. Based on this input, we redesigned the container to be easier to open. Our pursuit of products that are better and easier to use was recognized with a Good Design Award in 2020. We have also created websites that provide product information in Japanese, English, Chinese, and Spanish, and we added QR codes to product labels that link to these websites. Currently, a Korean language site is being added.
* OS-1 is approved as a food for people with medical conditions and is intended to provide water and electrolytes to maintain the proper water and electrolyte balance in people with mild-to-moderate dehydration (Approved by the Consumer Affairs Agency)
Example of Improved Product: OS-1 500 ml plastic bottle
- To make it easier to hold, the bottle was redesigned from a round shape to an angled shape that narrows in the middle.
- A QR code was added to the label so that people can access more detailed information about the product.
- To make the cap easier to open, the grooves were made finer, and directions for how to open are indicated on the top.
Example of Improved Product: OS-1 Jelly
- Enlarged cap diameter by 5 millimeters.
OS-1 received a Good Design Award in 2020. (Product images is as of 2020.)
Improvements to Easy-to-Open Boxes (Otsuka Pharmaceutical)
At Otsuka Pharmaceutical, personnel from the Quality Division use customer feedback on products to make improvements. One example is the Calorie Mate Block boxes now have a round perforated line on the back so they can be opened with little effort. Based on customer feedback, the packaging was made even easier to open in March 2022 by adjusting the perforations on the opening by a few millimeters.
Adoption of a Design that Considers Variations in Color Vision (Otsuka Pharmaceutical Factory)
ENORAS🄬 Liquid for Enteral Use, a line of enteral nutrition formulas (for both oral and tube feeding), which is a prescription drug manufactured and distributed by Otsuka Pharmaceutical Factory and EN Otsuka Pharmaceutical, uses a package design that takes into consideration variation in color vision among users and makes it easier to tell product variations apart. In recognition, the Color Universal Design Organization1 granted the product line CUD certification2 in June 2020. We expect this package design to help prevent medication errors, not only by those prescribed the product, but also by healthcare professionals who handle the product.
- 1: A nonprofit organization that contributes to the realization of a society where all people can live a fairer and more culturally rich life. It widely conveys information on color vision to the general public and organizations, evaluating and proposing improvements on color use, and improving the color environment of the real world such that society takes into consideration the variation in human color vision.
- 2:Third-party certification ensuring that a product has a color scheme that is easy for many people to understand.
A Design Easy for Everyone to Understand
Clearer Labels for Healthcare Professionals (Otsuka Pharmaceutical)
Inquiries from healthcare professionals led to a change in product labelling for Otsuka Pharmaceutical's UBIT Tablets, a diagnostic agent for Helicobacter pylori infection. Although the package inserts state that only one tablet is to be taken during an examination, the company received several inquiries as to whether two tablets were necessary because the product is packaged with two tablets per box. This seemed to call for a reminder, from the viewpoint of promoting proper use and preventing erroneous use. After consideration by the relevant departments, a warning to indicate one tablet per dose was added to the strip package and individual boxes.
Labelling That Is Easy for Consumers to Understand (Otsuka Foods)
For packaging produced by group companies in Japan, with the exception of certain products such as those with space limitations, we ensure the understandability of labelling. In addition to information required by law, the following information is presented: instructions for storage after opening, precautions, an easy-to-read list of allergens (mandatory and recommended items), and a clear indication of packaging materials. Based on customer feedback, we continue to make further improvements. For example, Otsuka Foods has redesigned allergen labelling by adding a list of allergens on the package in a separate location from the comprehensive list of instructions and precautions. For Bon Curry for Children, illustrations have been added to make the information easier to understand, so that consumers can purchase it with peace of mind.
Change of Expiration Date Labeling to Prevent Food Loss
The Otsuka group aims to raise production efficiency through measures including improving production technology, flexibly handling production volume, efficiently using raw materials, and ensuring safety and stability, thereby reducing the occurrence of food loss. For example, Otsuka Pharmaceutical switched to month-based expiration dates and extended the shelf life for about 90 items. In addition, Otsuka Warehouse is working to minimize disposal by introducing a system for group employees to purchase products that would have been disposed of because they are nearing their expiration date, have some packaging damage or for other reasons. As a result of this initiative, food loss was reduced by approximately 116 tonnes in 2021.
Extending Shelf Life and Switching to Month-Based Expiration Dates
The expiration date is the date until which a product can be enjoyed with no change in quality if the container or bag is stored unopened in the way prescribed. Otsuka Pharmaceutical seeks to reduce food loss by extending shelf life and switching to labels that indicate the expiration date by month rather than day. Month-based expiration dates are meant to signify quality until the last day of the month indicated, enabling shelf lives of up to one month longer.
Reference: Example of an expiration date printed for a product manufactured on October 10, 2020
Labeling to Ensure Proper Nutrition (Nutrition and Santé)
Nutrition and Santé (N&S), which offers a range of healthy nutritious foods in more than 40 countries worldwide, mainly in Europe, seeks to deepen consumers’ understanding of food and nutrition. For example, since 2020 the Nutri-Score nutritional rating system has been applied to all N&S products (excluding Isostar🄬 brand products) so that consumers have a better understanding of a product’s nutritional rating. The Nutri-Score system, a five-level scale (A to E) rating the nutritional quality of products, was started in France and has now been introduced in many European countries. The goal is to help consumers make healthier product choices based on nutrition, which is expected to help reduce the risks of developing cardiovascular disease, obesity, and diabetes. N&S aims to achieve a Nutri-Score rating of C or higher for all products.
Release of Eco-Friendly Label-free Bottles (Otsuka Pharmaceutical)
In recent years, along with growing environmental consciousness, the Consumer-Relations Office at Otsuka Pharmaceutical has received an increasing number of inquiries and requests for labels that can be removed more easily from emptied PET or glass bottles. In Japan, although it is not necessary to remove paper labels before recycling bottles, Otsuka Pharmaceutical launched a label-free version of Oronamin C Drink in July 2021, a first in Japan for bottled beverages, in response to consumer concerns.
News release: Reflecting Customer Concerns – Introduction of Oronamin C Drink in Label-free Bottles (Japanese version only)
Shift to Eco-Friendly Packaging (Otsuka Pharmaceutical)
We responded to consumers indicating they would like more eco-friendly packaging in a questionnaire conducted regularly by the department in charge of online sales at Otsuka Pharmaceutical, So, in July 2021 the Company started to use paper in place of plastic for cushioning in packages. This change is expected to reduce plastic consumption by approximately 270 kg per year.
Examples of Stakeholder Engagement
Remote Factory Tours (Otsuka Pharmaceutical’s Tokushima Itano Factory)
The Tokushima Itano Factory, which produces pharmaceuticals and SOYJOY products, introduced remote (online) factory tours when onsite tours became difficult due to COVID-19. In fiscal 2021, 690 students from eight nearby elementary schools and special needs schools and six high schools and universities took part. Participants saw a video of the SOYJOY production process as well as hear explanations about Otsuka Pharmaceutical and the factory itself. Many students commented on how interesting it was to see the factory from above in drone shots and that the factory was operating in harmony with nature with various living creatures in the biotope,* including an endangered species, the golden venus chub. Others said that the remote tour stimulated their desire to learn more about the environment, including litter in the sea.
- *The word biotope, from the German words bios (meaning life) and topos (meaning place), refers to an area where native species can continue to thrive. At the Tokushima Itano Factory, many creatures live in the pond that is filled with the cooling water that we use.
Resolving Local Health Issues through Partnerships with 47 Prefectures (Otsuka Pharmaceutical)
Leveraging knowledge gained through product R&D and health-related education, the Nutraceuticals Division of Otsuka Pharmaceutical has collaborated with local governments across Japan to resolve local issues that include countermeasures for heat disorders, dietary education, sports promotion, women’s health issues as well as disaster prevention and support. Partnership agreements have been concluded with all 47 prefectures, and the range of activities has grown to include cities and other municipalities who are focused on health promotion for local populations.
We have also started initiatives to resolve other local health issues by using our knowledge in medical-related fields. In addition to support being provided by the Nutraceuticals Division, such as distributing information on products and health, we are also collaborating with local governments in areas that include mental health, which has been intensifying alongside the spread of COVID-19.
Providing Information on Disease Prevention, Home Medical Care, and Nursing Care (Otsuka Pharmaceutical Factory)
Otsuka Pharmaceutical Factory uses knowhow in intravenous solutions and clinical nutrition for projects taken on together with local governments by providing detailed information ranging from disease prevention to home medical care and nursing care. A partnership agreement on preventive medicine was signed with Ono City, Hyogo Prefecture in September 2020 and a comprehensive partnership agreement was signed with Imizu City, Toyama Prefecture in October 2020.
Online Lectures on SDGs, Cancer and Drug Discovery for Junior High Schools (Taiho Pharmaceutical)
Taiho Pharmaceutical often collaborates with local governments where there are research and production bases. For example, the Tsukuba SDGs Partners agreement concluded with Tsukuba City. In 2021, online lectures were held for junior high schools in Ibaraki Prefecture, through this partners program. The lectures included an introduction to sustainability by public relations staff, an explanation of cancer and drug discovery by a researcher, and a description of work at a corporate venture capital company by an employee of Taiho Ventures, a subsidiary of Taiho Pharmaceutical that invests in bio startups. A short video on the Tsukuba area was also shown during the lectures. These lectures provide an excellent platform for two-way communication with students interested in pursuing a career in medicine.
Prof. Izumi Kado
Department of Business and Communication,
Shikoku University, Junior College
High Hopes for Deeper Permeation of Consumeroriented Management
I have the deepest respect for the people of the Otsuka group, who work hard to create a sustainable society together with consumers, inspired by the ideal of ethical consumption founded on three key concepts: the environment, workers’ rights and happiness, and the community. In an age when we can no longer count on the future being a direct extension of the past, I am convinced that the Otsuka group’s consumer-oriented management style, imbued with a spirit of altruism and defined by diverse, in-depth and, ethical communication with all stakeholders, will come to be shared widely around the world.