|Country of origin||Japan|
Yakult (ヤクルト, Yakuruto) is a Japanese sweetened probiotic milk beverage fermented with the bacteria strain Lactobacillus casei Shirota. It is sold by Yakult Honsha, based in Tokyo. It is distributed through convenience stores and supermarkets in single-serving containers of (depending on the manufacturer) 65 mL (2.3 imp fl oz; 2.2 US fl oz) or 100 mL (3.5 imp fl oz; 3.4 US fl oz), often in single-row packs of five or ten.
Yakult ingredients are water, skimmed milk, glucose-fructose syrup, sucrose, and live Lactobacillus casei Shirota bacteria. The strain was originally classified as being Lactobacillus casei but in 2008 it was reclassified as belonging to L. paracasei.
Yakult is prepared by adding glucose to skimmed milk and heating the mixture at 90 to 95°C for about 30 minutes. After letting it cool down to 45°C, the mixture is inoculated with the lactobacillus and incubated for 6 to 7 days at 37 to 38°C. After fermentation, water, sugar, gums and lactic acid are added.
In 2006, a panel appointed by the Netherlands Nutrition Center (Voedingscentrum) to evaluate a marketing request by Yakult found sufficient evidence to justify claims that drinking at least one bottle of Yakult per day might help improve bowel movements for people who tend to be constipated and might help maintain a healthy population of gut flora.
In 2010, a European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) panel denied a request by the company to market Yakult as defending the upper respiratory tract against pathogens (in other words, protection against diseases like the common cold), finding the claim not supported by the evidence.
In 2013, the UK Advertising Standards Authority disallowed an advertisement for Yakult in response to a complaint. It found that while there was sufficient evidence for the claim that "significant numbers of viable [Lactobacillus] survived transit to the gut [after consumption of Yakult]", the advertisement had made claims of general health benefits without providing a specific, referenced claim, as required.
Yakult was invented in 1935 in Japan by Minoru Shirota, who helped to found Yakult Honsha in order to commercialize it. Although Yakult is sold in Japan in supermarkets and convenience stores it is also sold door-to-door in Asia and in Latin America by women traditionally known as Yakult ladies.
In February 2018, it was reported that Danone planned to sell US$1.9 billion of its Yakult investment, reducing its stake from 21% to 7%. The plan was followed by a decline in Yakult's share value. Danone had first bought shares in Yakult in April 2000. The sale was completed in March 2018.
In September 2018, it was reported that the appearance of unlabelled Yakult bottles in the 2018 film To All the Boys I've Loved Before led to a rise in the drink's sales that coincided with a 2.8% increase in share price following the film's release on 17 August.