The first bottles of fermented milk drink Yakult - packed with probiotic strain Lactobacillus casei Shirota - have rolled off the production line at the Japanese firm’s new US factory in Fountain Valley, California.
US consumers now drink around 182,000 bottles of Yakult a day (2013 average), up 12.6% on 2012.
While this is small fry compared with the 32 million bottles a day Yakult sells overall (a figure it aims to increase to 37 million in 2016), the North American market is a key area of focus for Yakult, which recently moved its US headquarters from Torrance, CA, to Fountain Valley.
The new factory will supply stores in California, Nevada, Arizona, Texas, Colorado and New Mexico (which are currently supplied by its factory in Guadalajara, Mexico), but will also provide a platform for expansion into new regions, Hideyuki Shibata, Ph.D, VP Science/Public Relations told FoodNavigator-USA: "We are mainly selling in the west coast and the middle of the US at mainstream supermarkets at the moment, but we’ll expand our sales area in the future."
Asked about marketing plans, he said: "Within our sales area, we support the brand awareness with both traditional media (TV, Radio, Outdoor) and increasingly with targeted Digital and Social Media. Another core tactic we use is store and event sampling. Sampling allows us to engage directly with our customers and explain importance of our exclusive strain, Lactobacillus casei Shirota."
Capacity: 400,000 bottles/day, to increase to 950,000 in future
The production capacity is currently 400,000 bottles per day but will ultimately increase to around 950,000 bottles per day.
Studies conducted using Yakult’s proprietary probiotic strain Lactobacillus casei Shirota suggest it could potentially confer a wide range of health benefits from helping to strengthen the immune system and tackle GI tract conditions such as Crohn’s disease.
However, claims made on pack in the US remain pretty generic right now: ‘Drinking one or two bottle daily may balance your digestive system and maintain overall health.’
Each 2.7oz (80ml) bottle of regular Yakult contains water, sugar, skim milk powder, glucose, natural flavors and Lactobacillus casei Shirota and has 50 calories. The 'Light' version is sweetened with Reb-A (stevia) as well as sugar and has 30 calories per bottle.