Yakult Danone weighing up Indian expansion as it seeks to educate consumers about gut health

By Tingmin Koe

- Last updated on GMT

Consumption of probiotic drinks is increasing in India, but there is still a big challenge in increasing the awareness of probiotics and its benefits. ©iStock
Consumption of probiotic drinks is increasing in India, but there is still a big challenge in increasing the awareness of probiotics and its benefits. ©iStock

Related tags Probiotics yakult Gut health

Yakult Danone India is currently surveying two places — Panjab and Madhya Pradesh — for market expansion, MD Minoru Shimada told NutraIngredients-Asia.

At present, the northern part of India accounted for half of its national sales, while the south accounted for 20%.

With a facility in Sonepat, Haryana, the firm is producing 200,000 to 250,000 of bottles per day, which is a 10% to 20% increase from last year. 

There is also a possibility of building a second production facility in the future, he said.

As for consumption of probiotics products, he said that consumption in India is “growing”, ​but there is “still a big challenge in increasing the awareness of probiotics and its benefit”​ to the local consumers.

The firm is also looking into ways of overcoming supply chain challenge, such as refrigeration, when selling products in less developed Indian cities.

Yakult is currently available in over 44 cities in 12 states across India.

Yakult Light​, a new variant of Yakult, was launched in India earlier this year in February. It contains lesser sugar due to the addition of Steviol Glycoside, a sweetener of natural origin.

Probiotics and the Indian diet

Dr Neerja Hajela, head of science and regulatory affairs at Yakult Danone India, highlighted that probiotics are needed to complement the Indian diet at a press conference in Hyderabad city last week.

She gave the example of dietary habits in Andhra Pradesh, which is mainly made up of simple carbohydrates such as rice.

"People living in Andhra Pradesh mostly consume rice which is simple carbohydrates and enjoy very spicy foods which tend to deplete the nutrients. This impacts the digestive health and leaves you prone to many lifestyle diseases."

In response to queries from NutraIngredients-Asia, ​she added that the Indian diet consists of foods that are hard to digest, such as bran, oats, barley, and ragi. Vegetables with insoluble fibre also made up the bulk of the diet.

"Indians are prone to digestive disorders because of the constant exposure to harmful microbes and consumption of foods that are laden with spices."

"In fact, two-thirds of the population suffers from one or the other forms of digestive disorders such as constipation, diarrhoea, irritable bowel syndrome, and inflammatory bowel disease."

As such, she said that consuming probiotics products would help to ensure better digestion and absorption, hence "overcoming some of the micro-nutrient deficiencies that Indians suffer from."

She also pointed out the importance of maintaining intestinal health, since around 70% of immune cells are found in the intestines.

Most people believe that the intestines just about digesting food and absorbing nutrients and are not aware that it contains about 70% of the immune cells of the human body.”

Educational talks

The firm has been conducting outreach programmes to educate the health benefits of probiotics to the local Indian communities, Shimada said.

"Backed by our core philosophy to educate Indians about the importance of probiotics as a part of the daily life and our vision of bringing health and happiness to people of India, Yakult Danone India Pvt. Ltd. has been organising an ongoing 360 degree education drive in different cities of India,”​ he said at a press conference in Hyderabad city last week.

“India offers huge potential for Yakult and we are pleased to see more and more people making Yakult a part of their daily diet for its health benefits,"​ he added.

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