The company’s US subsidiary – Yakult USA – will soon be releasing a short video segment on the health benefits of probiotics, which it hopes will broadcast on national and international public television stations.
Yakult said the video, which will be between 3-5 minutes long, is purely educational and makes no mention of its namesake probiotic drink brand. The firm will distribute it to 150 public television stations in the US, and will also provide it for international airing via the WorldNet distribution network.
The idea behind this initiative is that poorly-funded TV stations will have access to free programming – which is not linked to advertising – and so would be prepared to air it.
“We’re donating a production piece,” said Yakult USA’s communications manager Lauren Weidelman.
“A lot of these stations in the US don’t have the funding to produce too much programming. We’re giving them this for free, and hopefully it will help educate consumers and also contribute to the stations’ mission,” she told this publication.
Probiotics are beneficial bacteria found naturally in the human gut, and are crucial for good gut health.
When an imbalance occurs between probiotic and pathogenic bacteria, the result may be digestive problems such as diarrhea, irregularity or constipation. Regular consumption of probiotics is also said to ward off numerous preconditions for an array of diseases.
Some of the benefits of probiotics include immune stimulation, enhancement of bowel mobility, and reduction of inflammatory or allergic reactions.
Yakult’s presence in the United States is still in its early stages. The firm only entered the US market last year, and sales still remain regional. Internationally, however, Yakult is one of the biggest probiotic brands, and is considered to be the world's ‘original’ probiotic company.
The Japanese firm, which is today worth $2.3bn, sells 25 million bottles of its Yakult beverage per day in 30 countries and regions around the world.
Indeed, the overall success of the probiotics category is largely put down to the marketing efforts of Yakult and other leading firms in the category, such as Danone.
However, the US market for probiotic products still significantly lags behind the European market, which has traditionally led the food and beverage market for digestive health.
According to data provided by Mintel, there were 699 new food and beverage products targeting digestive health launched in Europe in 2007, some 52 percent higher than the year earlier.
In North America, the market researcher's Global New Products Database (GNPD) recorded 136 new products launched last year. However, the North American region recorded the highest growth rate of 131 percent between 2006 and 2007.
But although the North American probiotics market is in the initial stages of sudden growth, awareness of the bacteria and their health benefits is still very low.
A survey conducted in August found that the vast majority of Americans know nothing about probiotics, suggesting more education efforts could help boost an industry still in its infancy.
The national survey, carried out by Opinion Research Corporation, revealed that only 15 percent of American adults were familiar with the healthy bacteria.
The survey, which involved telephone interviews with 1000 adults in the continental US, reported that 85 percent of respondents knew “little to nothing” about probiotics.