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To see our content at its best we recommend upgrading if you wish to continue using IE or using another browser such as Firefox, Safari or Google Chrome. Products such as Yakult, which are sold at a premium over standard yogurts, cannot be proved to either boost the immune system or aid digestive health, it has been ruled. Yakult Honsha, the Japanese producer of probiotic yogurt beverages is expanding its business overseas to the United States by 2012 to meet the growing demands. What is Yakult?Yakult is a probiotic drink that uses the bacterial strain Lactobacillus casei.
Research suggests consuming Lactobacillus casei may help modulate the body's immune system. Minoru Shirota cultures a Lactobacillus casei strain at the University of Kyoto in Kyoto, Japan. Throughout Asia, "Yakult ladies" ride door to door on their bicycles and scooters to deliver the little bottles of a fermented, milky beverage that are advertised to promote positive gut health. Though the company doesn't expect the Yakult ladies to branch out to California's suburbs, officials are looking forward to what they believe will be an accelerating North American market, said Hideyuki Shibata, the spokesman for Yakult, which sells the 2.7-ounce bottles in batches of six to about 30 countries and regions around the world.
Sales in Asia are growing rapidly due to the drink's accessibility, but they are slower in the United States, Shibata said. Over the past five years, sales of probiotics such as Yakult at mainstream grocery stores have picked up.
At Northgate Gonzalez Markets, a primarily Hispanic grocery store chain, Yakult is "by far the most popular item" in terms of the probiotic foods and drinks the stores sell, said Debbie Romero, the company's category director for dairy, deli and frozen food. Yakult entered the Hispanic markets in the United States in 2005 after more than 20 years of rising sales in Mexico, according to the company.
The company decided to build the new manufacturing plant in Fountain Valley on 17235 Newhope St.

In general, consumer data show the American consumer is warming up to the concept of probiotics. The popularity of the helpful bacteria is due to a rather recent shift in the public's interest in healthy eating, said Maria Marco, a microbiologist who studies beneficial bacteria at UC Davis and has spoken at conferences addressing probiotic research. Marco observed that since the early 2000s, research aimed at the body's use of bacteria has made its way to the grocery aisle, where products labeled as "probiotic" are performing well. More recently, however, the word is used commercially with little regulation of its authenticity, though the Food and Drug Administration regulates outright health claims. However, in its most recent advert, fronted by Martine McCutcheon, it said its yogurts were "good for your digestive health". Currently Yakult in the United States has been limited mainly to the west coast with its plant from Mexico. Yakult is a probiotic milk-like product made by fermenting a mixture of skimmed milk with a special strain of the bacterium Lactobacillus casei Shirota. Similar to strains used in probiotic drinks and foods such as Activia and Actimel, the bacteria remains alive for consumption. The drink is served in small portions because that's all the dosage needed per day, according to a company spokesman. Though probiotic drinks such as Yakult have been around since the 1930s, and researchers long have praised the idea of "good bacteria," it's no silver bullet, and research into the health benefits is still in the early stages. The drinks gained popularity in Asia, and in the past five years, they have spread to mainstream American markets as well.
Though he declined to give any exact figures for the United States or globally, he said the company expects sales to pick up as more consumers become aware of the Yakult brand.
At Ralphs, company spokeswoman Kendra Doyel said consumers consistently are buying the drink and at higher rates each year.

It was shortly after that, in 2007, that mainstream stores also started carrying the drink.
According to the market intelligence firm Euromonitor International, sales of probiotic supplements around the world are expected to increase 48 percent from 2011 to 2016, with stronger growth seen in the United States. The term "probiotic" indicates "live microorganisms that, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a beneficial effect on the health of the host," according to the World Health Organization. Items such as sauerkraut, which is fermented and contains cultures when raw, often are labeled as probiotic.
The additional factory in United States will allow sales of Yakult products to be sold on the east coast and Canada. Each species and strain has a different personality, and therefore a different potential for health benefits. But this finding is still in the lab stage, and it's a lot harder to study this in people, said UC Davis microbiologist Maria Marco.Misconception No. Romero said it's rare for a product popular in Hispanic markets to transition to mainstream markets. For instance, Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG, which is used in the product Culturelle, has been shown to reduce the duration of diarrhea in children. Over 20 million bottles of Yakult are sold daily, with Mexico and Brazil among the largest consumer.
It said: "The company wishes to discuss the evaluation process, scientific criteria and this outcome with EFSA.

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