Research on Functional Ingredients


Found abundantly in human breast milk, lactoferrin can be used to meet the health needs for all age groups

Focusing on the ‘power of milk’ found in breast milk

The protein lactoferrin was discovered in cow's milk in 1939. Subsequent studies have shown that it is found in the milk of many mammals, not just cow’s milk. It has been shown to be abundant in human milk, especially in the colostrum secreted during the first few days after a baby’s birth. Lactoferrin was so named to reflect its property of binding to iron, that is, lacto means milk-derived and ferrin means iron-binding protein. The characteristic red color of lactoferrin comes from the bound iron.


Lactoferrin is thought to play an important role in the health of newborn babies because it is abundant in the colostrum that newborns consume. Based on the perception that mother's milk is the best and most suitable source of nutrition, we have been researching lactoferrin for over 60 years since the early 1960s. One result of such research is that we learned that lactoferrin suppresses harmful bacteria in culture medium. It has also been confirmed that it has a suppressive effect on viruses.

Morinaga Milk’s unique production method for lactoferrin; use of lactoferrin in various products

Since lactoferrin is contained not only in milk but also in secretions such as tears and saliva, it is an important component not only for babies but also for people of all ages. Lactoferrin is contained in cow’s milk, but the amount is about one tenth that of human milk. In addition, lactoferrin in cow’s milk is easily denatured by heat sterilization, making it difficult to ingest lactoferrin in a bioactive form from commercially available milk and dairy products.
By extracting lactoferrin from dairy raw materials and sterilizing it by heating under conditions that do not denature, we have made it possible to incorporate lactoferrin into various products. In addition to infant formula, we offer lactoferrin in a wide variety of product forms such as yogurt, beverages, supplements, and powdered milk for adults.
In 1989, our German subsidiary MILEI GmbH started large scale production of lactoferrin. The production volume is currently the highest in the world.* The lactoferrin produced at MILEI complies with the standards in Japan and other countries worldwide. The major use of lactoferrin is in infant formula.

*According to Absolute Reports Pvt. Ltd. (2021 edition) and MILEI GmbH lactoferrin production records



Founded in 1972, MILEI is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Morinaga Milk. MILEI began manufacturing dairy ingredients derived from cheese whey in 1975, and is now producing a variety of dairy ingredients including lactoferrin, lactose, whey protein, whole milk protein, and micellar casein. MILEI's products are widely used around the world, especially in Europe and Asia, for applications such as infant formula, liquid foods, and sports nutrition foods.

Lactoferrin that contributes to the health and smiles of our customers

More than 80 years have passed since the discovery of lactoferrin. During this time lactoferrin has been studied all over the world. More than 9,000 scientific papers on lactoferrin have been published*1. In the private sector, Morinaga Milk has published the largest number of papers in the world *2.
Morinaga Milk, in collaboration with independent experts and local governments, continuously gathers data on the benefits of lactoferrin as well as conducts experiments to ensure the safety and reliability of consuming lactoferrin. The accumulation of research data gives us confidence that we can continue to provide meaningful products as we move forward with new research efforts.

*1 Search of PubMed shows 9,233 reports (search words: Lactoferrin; Period: 1960 to December 1, 2021)
*2 Search of SCOPUS (search word: Lactoferrin; search date: November 9, 2021)