Yakult raises probiotic drink output in Myanmar amid growing consumer demand

13, Apr. 2020

Yakult brand and other probiotic drinks displayed at a supermarket in Yangon in April, 2020. (NNA)
Yakult brand and other probiotic drinks displayed at a supermarket in Yangon in April, 2020. (NNA)

By Mami Saito

YANGON, NNA – Japanese probiotic drink maker Yakult Honsha Co. is boosting production in Myanmar to meet growing demand amid the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Increasing numbers of health-conscious consumers are drinking the Yakult brand beverage or buying larger amounts than usual because they expect probiotic drinks will help build immunity, Hideki Kawasaki, managing director of Yakult Myanmar Co., its subsidiary, said.

A vaccine for COVID-19, a sometimes deadly respiratory disease caused by the virus, has not yet been developed.

Yakult’s output of the 80-mililiter bottle drinks at its factory in the Thilawa Special Economic Zone near Yangon, the country’s largest city, doubled from January to March 2020.

The probiotic drinks by Yakult began selling out at some supermarkets in Myanmar in late February, Kawasaki said.

Yakult Myanmar decided to operate the factory for several days during Thingyan, Myanmar’s New Year holiday period from Monday through Thursday, because it must control the manufacturing process for nine days from fungal fermentation to shipment. The company also plans to ship drinks to Myanmar supermarkets in its own refrigerated vehicles over the second half of the holiday.

“There are customers waiting for our products,” Kawasaki said. “We’re determined to continue our production as long as possible and contribute to Myanmar.”

The government-affiliated Thilawa Special Economic Zone Management Committee granted Yakult permission to continue operations over the holiday after finding that the probiotic drinks are necessary for people’s daily lives. The committee requires companies to apply for permission to allow overtime or holiday shifts as part of efforts to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Yakult began production in Myanmar last July to help expand beverage sales in emerging economies.

The coronavirus spread has little affected the volume of Yakult products sold in its 16 Asian markets including Myanmar despite restrictions on employee commutes to offices and factories in some places, according to a company statement on March 24.