The Korea Herald


Yuhan targets market for female health probiotics

UREX probiotics pioneer speaks about 30 years of research behind beneficial microbes for female health

By Lim Jeong-yeo

Published : Nov. 19, 2019 - 18:01

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With South Korea’s market for health supplements growing, demand for female health-oriented probiotics is also expected to rise.

Yuhan Care, a health supplement and beauty spinoff of Yuhan Corp., held a press event Tuesday to introduce the market’s outlook and the technology behind its newly launched UREX probiotics product, Inner Flora. The man behind the development of probiotics was invited to speak on the matter.

At the event, Gregor Reid, the first scientist to discover the benefits of probiotics for women, spoke about his 30 years of academic research behind lactobacillus GR-1 and RC-14.

Gregor Reid visits Korea (Lim Jeong-yeo/The Korea Herald) Gregor Reid visits Korea (Lim Jeong-yeo/The Korea Herald)

L.GR-1 and L.RC-14 are patented probiotics, whose mixture UREX is proven to strengthen the vaginal barrier and prevent harmful bacteria from infecting the female organ. GR-1 can protect the vagina and RC-14 the urinary tract. Taken in the capsule form, UREX can survive through the intestines and travel down to the rectum, where it traverses the 4-centimeter distance from the rectum to the vagina.

Many people confuse probiotics with simply Lactobacillus, or bacteria found in yogurt or kimchi that helps digestion, probiotics is much more than that, Reid said.

Probiotics is a wide category of beneficial microbes, including Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium, Saccharomyces and Streptococcus, he explained. Each probiotic has unique functions for the body and when choosing a probiotic, a person must know what benefits they seek for maximum effect, Reid advised.

Women who wish to strengthen their vaginal health and prevent vaginitis or urinary infections would benefit from UREX, as multiple human tests have shown, Reid said.

These UREX probiotics are manufactured by Danish company Chr. Hansen, to whom Reid yielded intellectual property rights in 2008.

Chr. Hansen manufactures Yuhan Care’s Inner Flora product as well as Yuhan Corp.’s Elena. Korean company Pharmagenic’s Lactophil Duo is also by Chr. Hansen. 

The market for health supplements containing these probiotics is growing, and in Korea, the market is posting an annual growth rate of 12.4 percent. The country generated 4.5 trillion won ($3.8 billion) in revenue in 2018.

The annual supplement market growth in Korea is among the top three in the world, said Han Eun-jung, Yuhan Care’s food and health research and development general manager.

The domestic probiotics market has jumped sixfold from 2012 to 2018, from 51.9 billion won to 299.4 billion won. It is estimated it will go over the 400 billion won threshold in 2020, Han said.

Behind this growth is the 9 million-strong female population in Korea aged between 25 and 50, said Han.

In 2017, 1.2 million women, accounting for 12 percent of the 25-50 female population, actively sought medical care for vaginitis. While the conventional use of antibiotics for treatment of vaginitis eliminates both the harmful and beneficial bacteria, probiotics improves the immune system through proliferation of healthy agents.

Han estimated that demand will only increase, as more women here become aware of the need to take active care of their reproductive organ.

By Lim Jeong-yeo (