The service, called ‘McCann Worldgroup EBN Total Package Plan’ (MWGEBNTPP), comes as the agency foresees increased focus on evidence in the food and drink sector. In April, the Japanese government introduced what it terms a ‘Food functionality labeling system’, a new way for brands to draw attention to healthy product ingredients while ensuring greater transparency for consumers.
A spokesperson for McCann Worldgroup in Tokyo added that the company sees it as “a societal task to raise understanding of EBN”. The division will draw on the expertise of medical writers to help clients such as R&D personnel of relevant companies write and submit academic papers relating to nutrition.
McCann Health breaks its EBN services into several sections: accumulating evidence and releasing it using owned media; using the evidence to create fun, engaging topics to be released through earned media; and the creation of paid promotional messaging based on evidence.
The EBN service will be supervised by McCann Health chief knowledge officer Eiichi Nishine. It will work in collaboration with other companies under the McCann Worldgroup Holdings Japan umbrella.
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No clients are on board as yet, but the spokesperson said “leading soft drink makers in Japan are already expressing interest”. A statement from McCann Health lists potential customers as food and drink product manufacturers; healthy ingredient manufacturers; IT/information platform companies; distributors; trading companies; local governments and consortiums “dealing with food with a functionality label”.
The new labeling system follows criticism in Japan that the existing labeling policy lacked rigour, and is designed to tread a middle path between two systems—one for food products specifically for health, and another for food claiming to have certain nutritional benefits. While the former is strictly regulated, the latter does not require evidence beyond the presence of certain vitamins or minerals in a product.
The new system allows producers to make health claims based on evidence after notifying the government's Consumer Affairs Agency, but does not require the government to assess the products independently.
Interest in health food products is growing in Japan, and the market is expected to be worth more than the equivalent of US$17.2 billion within the next two years, according to Seed Planning, a market research company cited in a recent article in the Japan Times.