That ubiquitous 80-ml plastic bottle of lactobacilli goodness has been a familiar sight in Filipinos’ daily lives since 1978 when Yakult started churning out bottles from its manufacturing plant in Laguna. You can find bottles of Yakult Original and Yakult Light everywhere, in the supermarket or convenience store, and most notably sold by those “Yakult ladies” with their rolling carts who ply the streets of every barangay to sell their bottles.
During this pandemic, the demand for Yakult seems to have peaked, with bottle supply running low in retail stores. Thankfully, the Yakult ladies are always out in full force, allowed to sell even during the harshest quarantine phase.
Why does this relatively inexpensive bottle of cultured milk seem to elicit such demand, especially during a crisis? The reason could be the health benefits provided by the 8 billion lactobacillus casei Shirota strain (isolated and cultured by Yakult founder Dr. Minoru Shirota in 1930) living in each 80-ml bottle. These probiotics or live microorganisms help improve the balance of one’s intestinal flora which, in turn, helps boost the immune system, a necessary preventive in these days of coronavirus.
However, it’s worth noting that independent studies have cropped up through the years questioning the claims of Yakult and other fermented milk brands as immunity boosters. In 2010, the European Food Safety Authority even declared that many of these health claims were too general to be considered effective.
Still, the public continues to buy Yakult as a health drink, with domestic sales averaging 3 million bottles a day (as of 2018). However, in the last few years, Yakult has gone beyond its nutritional benefits to become a novel addition to beverages. Most milk tea chains now carry some version of a Yakult drink, and bartenders have been mixing it into their cocktails, usually paired with soju.
With its sweet-tangy notes and milky texture, Yakult has also become a cult flavor in ice cream and desserts, as evidenced by Sydney-based pastry chef Miko Aspiras’s recent creation of Yakult Light and Coconut Panna Cotta.
Meanwhile, the lifestyle site Clozette lists Yakult cake ideas here, whether you’re up for baking or just making a cheesecake.
So, for those who have never gotten into the habit of drinking a Yakult a day, or for those who are bored with just downing it straight from the bottle, here are four different ways to enjoy it now:
Yakult milk tea
Simply substitute the usual milk in your milk tea with Yakult and you’ve got yourself a tangier version of milky iced tea, Of course, there are endless variations, with different kinds of teas, sweeteners, and fruits to experiment with, like this lemon-y version.
Create your favorite smoothie—with your choice of fruits, vegetables, fiber (chia seeds, perhaps)—with Yakult as its milky finish. For example, this power smoothie combines oat bran, red currants, bananas, with Yakult, of course.
Yakult soju cocktail
This soju mix is no longer a novelty cocktail, and has become a very popular drink, especially among the young. Mix equal parts soju and Yakult for a cocktail that smoothens the soju with sweet, creamy notes. You can also add some tonic water or lemon-lime soda for a bit of fizz. For added sweetness, choose a flavored soju (peach perhaps?), or else add some fruit juice to the mix.
Yakult ice cream
Make this milky ice cream with just three ingredients: Yakult, all-purpose cream, and condensed milk. Whip it up then freeze. It’s that simple.