Kochi: Those small bottles which have been waited for by the health-conscious celebrities including cine stars and globe-trotting businessmen for a long time are finally here in Kerala. Yes, Yakult, the probiotic milk brand which is older than India as it was born in Japan way back in 1935, has been launched in Kochi.
Developed by the visionary microbiologist Dr. Minoru Shirota in Japan through the studies started in 1920's, the brand started its joint venture in India with the European food giant Danone in Sonepat, Haryana in 2005 and started its production in the country in 2008. Ever since, it was being made available in various Indian cities in phases but was not available in Kerala till now. When it's launched in Kerala, the brand has another first in India - till now, in various Indian cities, it was being directly distributed by Yakult Danone India Ltd itself and now, it has appointed Choice Specialty Food Products Ltd, parent company of Kochi's Horeca store Host, as its distributor in Kerala, a first for the brand in India.
In a function held at Host, Dr George Paul and Dr Roshan Marie Thomas, a doctor couple based in Kochi, launched the much awaited probiotic drink. Speaking on the occasion, Arun Antony, Director, Choice Specialty Food Products, said in the first phase, Yakult will be available in Kochi across the modern trade including LuLu Hypermarket, supermarkets, star hotels and at Host in Vyttila and will be taken to other parts of Kerala in phases.
Yakult is available in two variants - Yakult and Yakult Light, the latter with less sugar and fortified with Vitamins D and E - and is sold in a pack of five bottles. In India, Yakult is sold for Rs.70 for a 5-bottle pack and Yakult Light is sold for Rs.85.
As per 2018 statistics, across 39 countries, 39 million bottles of Yakult are consumed everyday. When it comes to south India, in Bengaluru alone, more than 6 million bottles are sold in a month. "For a lot of Malayalees who were either travelling widely or living abroad, Yakult is a household name. Still, it's now for the first time that the cult product is available in Kerala. In fact, a lot of Malayalees living abroad stock Yakult bottles in their refrigerators and consume one each before breakfast and in evenings," Arun Antony pointed out.
It was the abundance of milk which made the brand choose Haryana as its joint venture factory location in India. The plant in Sonepat spread across 8 acres of land has a capacity to produce 1 million bottles of Yakult everyday. Yakult is stored and transported in 4 to 6 degree temperature to keep the organisms alive and is to be consumed within 40 days of production.
Recently, the brand has also launched a campaign titled "Love your intestine. About 70% immunity lies there" as Shilpa Shetty as its brand ambassador in India.
Each 65 ml bottle of Yakult contains more than 6.5 billion beneficial bacteria lactobacillus casei Strain Shirota (LcS) which reaches the intestine alive and helps increase the number of good bacteria and decrease the number of bad bacteria there which ultimately improves digestion and immunity.
Probiotics are defined as 'live microorganisms or beneficial bacteria which when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit on the host' by FAO/WHO in 2001. Home to 100 trillion bacteria which are called gut flora and weigh about 1.5 kg, the intestine is a non-stop machine which digests food and absorbs essential nutrients. It is the largest immune organ - about 70% immune cells are present here which protects us from harmful bacteria, viruses and cancer cells.
In the case of India, Yakult was found out to be more useful through a large community based trial conducted by the National Institute of Cholera and Enteric Diseases, Kolkata, part of ICMR. The study was done to evaluate the role of Lactobacillus casei strain Shirota in preventing acute diarrhoea in more than 3000 children. The result of the study showed that incidence of diarrhoea was significantly lower in the children who took Yakult during the study.
The nerve centre of Yakult is the Yakult Central Institute in Kunitachi-shi in Tokyo, Japan while it has another one in Europe as well - Yakult Honsha European Research Centre in Ghent, Belgium. In addition to these, Yakult, in collaboration with the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JANXA), is undertaking research on the International Space Station (ISS) on immune function and intestinal environment of the continuous intake of probiotics on astronauts during their stays on the ISS.