Yakult president lifts lid on secrets of iconic Thai yoghurt drink
When Yakult Thailand president Kanokpan Hetrakul offered to reveal secrets of the probiotic yoghurt drink that Thais have been slurping for over 50 years, The Nation was all ears.
But before answering our questions, Kanokpan gave a quick history of Yakult, which was formulated by Japanese microbiologist Minoru Shirota in 1935.
He developed the Lactobacillus casei Shirota strain of bacteria to boost gut health and regular bowel habits, she explained.
In 2015, Kanokpan took over Yakult Thailand from her father, Prapan Hetrakul, the pioneer of the drink in Thailand and former editor-in-chief of the Thai-language Daily News.
Her father learned about Yakult in his younger years while studying in Japan. A Japanese housemaid gave him a bottle of Yakult after Prapan suffered diarrhoea from eating sushi. This gave him the idea of selling Yakult in Thailand to combat the cholera epidemic that was sweeping the country.
Founded in 1970, Yakult Thailand popularised the term ‘Yakult Girl’ in the country by offering career opportunities plus benefits to women who sold the yoghurt drink door to door.
“Instead of paying advertising agencies, say, 50 million baht for national campaigns, Yakult offered this money to help with medical costs and tuition fees for Yakult Girls and their children,” Kanokpan said.
The five big questions about Yakult
Q1: Is it true that drinking Yakult after drinking alcohol can reduce your blood-alcohol level in a breathalyser test from 0.150% to 0.050%?
Kanokpan: “It’s true. But I don’t want people to misunderstand that drinking Yakult prevents you from getting drunk. That’s why I refuse to sell it in RCA [Bangkok’s biggest entertainment area].”
Q2: Is it true that women can eliminate feminine hygiene issues and odours by drinking Yakult mixed with soda?
Kanokpan: “Yakult contains probiotics, which help clean your digestive tract and internal organs. Once our internals are clean, there will be no bad odour.”
Q3: Is it true that there is a lot of sugar in Yakult?
Kanokpan: “The sugar is there to keep the lactobacillus bacteria alive. However, we also offer Yakult Light as a low-sugar alternative.”
Q4: Why not make a bigger bottle?
Kanokpan: “Yakult only comes in 80-millilitre bottles because the aim is not to fill up your stomach. Furthermore, this container size is optimal for the growth of lactobacillus bacteria.”
Q5: How many bottles of Yakult one can drink per day?
Kanokpan: “I personally drink two per day, but my mother drinks four. You can also use the leftover yogurt as a facemask as it adds moisture.”