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Yakult: targeting US demand for functional health, convenience

Yakult, the Japanese probiotic yogurt drink, is receiving its first launch in the US. Previously only a niche item, Yakult stands to benefit from the increasing maturity in US consumers' desires for credible, convenient nutraceutical solutions.

Yakult, the internationally successful probiotic yogurt brand, is receiving its first mainstream launch in the US market. Previously only available through Asian and Hispanic grocery stores, it is being introduced through major supermarkets in southern California as a first stage in a state-wide roll out.

The US has lagged behind other major markets, such as those of Western Europe, in embracing the functional or nutraceutical probiotic yogurt drink concept. However, with a resurgent yogurt category recording good growth, Yakult now believes it can appeal to US mainstream consumers who are increasingly educated in, and open to the idea of preventative health. As a result of this improved knowledge, US consumers are becoming pro-active in addressing their health concerns, driven by the expansive media coverage of health problems in the US, such as the rising level of obesity. According to Datamonitor, the US functional food and drinks market was valued at US$21 billion in 2006, with annual growth forecast to be around 5% through to 2011.

The success of the functional yogurt category internationally has largely been due to its connection with three major food trends; health, convenience and portion control. Consumers desire tangible healthy functionality but in a convenient form. Healthy foods have been disadvantaged by the popular perception that healthy is inherently inconvenient and thus time-scarce consumers are seeking quick, targeted solutions to their health needs. Yakult provides a one shot-style solution to this, with Yakult USA now believing US consumers to be receptive to their offering.

Yakult has been successful at getting its message across internationally, developing a strong and familiar brand identity- a good basis to capitalize on. Clearly, they are looking to replicate this in the US, with prominent print, primetime TV and radio advertising planned.

Yakult's level of success will depend on its ability to tap into the particular concerns of US consumers and gain recognition as a truly effective quick-fix healthy solution that can be incorporated into daily routines with minimal effort.

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