July 31, 2019
Masahiro Urakabe, CEO and President, SEED
Japanese contact lens manufacturer Seed launched its daily disposable contact lens, 1DayPure Moisture, into the UK and Ireland in early 2019.
The company, which acquired UltraVision in April 2018, is currently promoting its products in Asia and Europe with sales in 14 European countries and further plans for growth in the region.
20/20 Europe spoke to CEO and President, Masahiro Urakabe - from headquarters in Tokyo.
Q: For how long has SEED been actively promoting its products in Europe, and what have you observed about Contact Lens sales in these markets in recent years?
A: Around 7 years have passed since we have first launched our product in Europe. Now the number of countries where our products are available has increased to 14 in Europe (Belgium, UK, Italy, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Iceland, Finland, Germany, Portugal, Switzerland, Netherland, Hungary and France). The registration of our products in some other countries - mainly in Eastern Europe - is under development.
We have observed that the contact lens market in Europe is still expanding for some of the following reasons;
- A shift from long modality lens to 1-day lens is increasing rapidly.
- The total number of people suffering from myopia has increased as a result of much exposure to smart phones, PCs and games; this is especially seen in young teenagers.
- The concept of “myopia management” gets more attention – and the use of orthokeratology RGP lenses, centre distance structured multifocal lenses and some type of EDOF (Extended Depth Of Focus) lens.
- Consumer demand for more dedicated individual lenses is increasing. We therefore expect healthy growth in the coming years.
Q: SEED acquired Contact Lens Precision Laboratories (CLPL) in 2018. How has this affected the company’s sales in soft contact lenses in the UK and Ireland? Do you see greater opportunities and what targets have you set for the next 5 years?
A: We started sales of disposable lenses in the UK in June 2019. Further sales are expected in 2020, with the new launch of EDOF lens and our new silicone hydrogel daily disposable lens in 2020.
Q: What other benefits have come out of the acquisition?
A: SEED is very satisfied with the sales and logistic contributions from CLPL, and the technology oriented collaboration between the two companies. We have learnt more about lens design technology from CLPL. CLPL has been able to benefit from SEED’s automation system.
Q: Outline the key products you now have available in key markets in Europe. What are the most important benefits of these products ensuring their on-going success and trust from the eyecare practitioner?
A: Our major daily disposable lenses available in European markets based on SEED Ionic Bond (“SIB”) material are:
- SEED 1dayPure moisture
- SEED 1dayPure moisture for Astigmatism
- SEED 1dayPure moisture for Multistage.
These three daily lenses are made with SEED original material (“SIB”), which results in a clean lens surface and natural wettability enhanced by Alginic acid extracted from seaweed. Among hydrogel materials, SIB gives 42.9 Dk/L value with high bio-comparability. SEED’s original material “SIB” contains both positive and negative ions resulting in electrical stability. This stability ensures high water content while keeping out dust and impurities. The European market has welcomed these characteristics and the wide range of power profiles. In the case of Astigmatism lenses, the front toric design is adopted for sharper vision and comfort.
Q: Outside the UK, which other markets have become important for you in Europe? Do you have subsidiaries in those countries?
A: Other than the UK, countries with large population and affordability are the key focus. The Nordic countries and Italy are markets with a high percentage of daily users. Germany, France and Netherland offer high potential to shift from 1 monthly users to daily users. We have acquired 40% stocks of Woehlk Contactlensen Gmbh in 2019. Woelhk has a long history in the manufacture of RGP lenses and many soft contact lenses with their own materials. SEED has been a good partner to Woelhk for supplying some of the daily disposable lenses under their OBL basis. Woelhk is supplying the logistics for us to deal with our distribution in continental Europe. We hope that the three companies (SEED, CLPL and Woelhk) can collaborate with each other all over the world to optimize the supply of goods and distribution.
Q: What news will you release in 2020?
A: In 2020, we are going to commercialize and launch the following two new products:
- SEED 1dayPure EDOF: This lens offers a completely new concept of optical design for presbyopic patients. This design was initially invented by Brien Holden Vision Institute in Australia, and SEED is responsible for the commercialization of daily disposal segments all over the world (except USA). EDOF aims to maximize vision quality especially focusing on depth of focus. Even in the evening time and regardless the size of pupil, a consistent level of vision can be maintained.
- SEED 1day Silfa: SEED 1day Silfa is the original silicone hydrogel daily disposable lens. The high modulus and softness are key characteristics of this lens. The lens uses a brand new SEED material. We plan to launch toric for Astigmatism and EDOF lens based on this new material.
We will also introduce an original orthokeratology lens in Europe in 2020. The lens has been available in Japan and Asian countries; it has a very high Dk/L value and a flexible structure suitable for myopia management.
Q: Finally, can you share your vision for SEED in the next years in Europe, indicating projected growth or your aspirations for success within the global contact lens market?
A: For us, Europe is a very attractive market with healthy growth and a variety of consumer demands. The success we see in Europe may bring us even greater success in the Asian market as well. Together with CLPL and Woehlk, SEED group can provide everything from very small volume speciality lenses to high volume consumer oriented daily disposal lenses. We would like to build up a new business model that will be somewhat different from those of many American companies.