Photo/IllutrationThis section of a drugstore, seen here Feb. 23 at Keio Department Store in Tokyo's Shinjuku Ward, is dedicated to powdered milk for adults. (Mikiharu Sugiura)

  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion

Powdered milk, which was long considered a synonym for baby formula, is now available in a number of varieties intended for adult consumption.

Industry insiders said it is catching on mostly with middle-aged and elderly customers who were seeking handy ways to ingest deficient nutrients to maintain their health.

The move was pioneered by Kyushin Pharmaceutical Co., which released Powder Milk for Adults in April 2014. A box of seven bags of the yogurt-flavored product is available for 1,600 yen ($15), excluding tax.

Each bag contains 9.5 grams of the powder, which is dissolved in 100 milliliters of water. That allows an intake, among others, of about twice the amount of protein and calcium contained in the same volume of milk, as well as folic acid equal to four heads of spinach.

Kyushin began developing the product sometime around 2010, prompted by the opinions of customers who said they wanted to drink milk to prevent osteoporosis, but they didn’t like the way the stomach growls after consuming milk.

Kyushin officials said purchasers have provided positive feedback, with one saying that Powder Milk for Adults is useful in "nourishing grandma, who is a light eater." Kyushin is expecting an annual shipment volume of 600,000 bags in fiscal 2017, nearly quadruple the figure for fiscal 2014.

“Production can hardly keep up with demand,” one company official said, looking astonished. “In fact, we never particularly advertised the product.”

Morinaga Milk Industry Co. followed suit when it released Milk Life in October 2016. A can containing 360 grams of the product is available for 3,670 yen, including tax.

The company developed Milk Life to enable a balanced intake of essential nutrients for adults, inspired by feedback from customers who said they were drinking baby formula every day because they believe it is good for their health, Morinaga officials said.

Sales of the product, which comes with a "light milk" flavor, have grown more than fivefold since it first went on the market. The sales for the current term are 30 percent above the initial forecast, company officials added.

While Milk Life has only been available through mail order, the product will also be marketed at stores from April. Women in their 50s through their 70s account for 80 percent of its purchasers.

“The product is being consumed by those who used to feed babies with powdered milk,” one Morinaga official said. “That is presumably because it is broadly recognized that milk is something safe and healthful.”

Bean Stalk Snow Co. in September 2017 also released Platinum Milk. A can containing 300 grams of the milk-flavored product is available for 2,400 yen, excluding tax.

Platinum Milk allows a balanced intake of 1.5 times the amount of protein contained in regular milk, 11 types of vitamins, eight types of minerals and other nutrients, company officials said.