After Yakult appeared in the most talked-about rom-com of the summer, shares in the Japanese yoghurt drink have soared. Here, we put the product to the test.
There are many moments in Netflix rom-com To All the Boys I Loved Before with the capacity to make grown women swoon. Despite being set in an American high school, the film has captured the attention and imagination of adults around the world thanks to its cheering storyline and two outrageously charismatic leads. In dark times, it’s almost impossible to overstate how nice it is to watch a sweet, well-written romantic comedy with an unambiguously happy ending.
The film has sparked endless online think pieces about the relative perfection (or not) of its leading man, Peter Kavinsky (Noah Centineo), and made an instant star of 21-year-old Lana Condor, who plays Korean-American protagonist Lara Jean Covey. But one of the more unexpected side effects of TATBILB’s success is the fact that it’s got the world talking about a certain probiotic yoghurt for the first time in years.
Towards the end of the film, Peter reveals that he drove across town to a Korean supermarket, just to buy Lara Jean her favourite yoghurt smoothie. Said smoothie, which we first see Lara Jean and her younger sister Kitty introducing to Peter towards the beginning of the film, is supposedly a Korean brand – but eagle-eyed viewers have identified the drink as a Yakult, or Yakuruto, thanks to the bottle’s distinctive red foil cap.
Since TATBILB dropped on Netflix on 17 August, online mentions of Yakult have reportedly spiked on social media, and the Japanese company’s stock shares have climbed by 2.6%. Industry experts are now predicting that this renewed interest in the fermented probiotic yoghurt drink will result in a rise in sales.
Yakult launched in the UK in 1996, but was invented in 1935 by a Japanese scientist named Minoru Shirota, who claimed that his product could help maintain gut health and a strong immune system. The health benefits of the drink are debated, but that hasn’t stopped it being hugely popular in countries including the US, China, Mexico, Thailand and South Korea. One ShortList Media writer, who grew up in Singapore, recalls making special trips to see the “Yakult man” (the owner of her local corner shop) as a child, and in Japan, India, Brazil and Malaysia, the drink are sold door-to-door by “Yakult ladies” or “Yakult aunties”.
The tiny yoghurt smoothie might have won over Lara Jean, Kitty and Peter, but is it actually worth adding to your basket next time you’re in the supermarket? We asked five Stylist staffers who’d never tried it before to put it to the test.
I’m not quite sure how I’ve managed to get to the age of 26 without ever drinking a Yakult – I remember them being everywhere when I was a kid in the Nineties. But, inspired by my new idol Lara Jean Covey, I’m giving it a go. I’m not brave enough to knock my tiny bottle back Peter Kavinsky-style, so instead I take a tiny sip. It’s unexpectedly tangy, but also sweet and strangely moreish. I take another sip, then another, until I realise I quite like it. Yakults for everyone!
Moya Crockett, digital women’s editor
“I am officially a Yakult hater”
My first thought was that the packaging was cute, kind of minimalist and vintage (so adorable). But whatever was inside – oh no. My taste buds are confused. I have many questions. First of all, what on earth is this meant to be? A weird, watery yoghurt? A milky form of medicine? I need an explanation, and the packaging offers none. If it is a drink, why is it so tiny? Am I meant to throw it back like a shot? That would at least clear up why people actually buy this: they’ve never tasted it. It’s chalky and thoroughly unsatisfying, and unless I get some cold, hard evidence of its health benefits, we shall never meet again.
Meena Alexander, sub-editor
“Would drink for Peter Kavinsky”
When I was asked to give Yakult a try, I only had one thought: is Peter Kavinsky going to bring it to me though? Sadly not. Once I collected it from the communal work fridge, I took a swig and was quite surprised. It’s milky and sweet but leaves a bit of a sour taste that you have to get used to. While I don’t think I’d trek across town to get it like Peter, I wouldn’t say no if I was offered one again.
Hanna Ibraheem, beauty writer
“I was intrigued”
I’ve never tried Yakult before but have been reading a lot about gut health recently, so was interested to give it a go. The first thing that hit me is how sweet it is. I was expecting it to taste more like natural yoghurt, but it tastes almost like liquidised sweets. It’s a no from me – sorry!
Rosamund Dean, acting deputy editor
“Look, if it’s good enough for potentially perfect Peter Kavinsky, then it’s probably good enough for me (and maybe my guts). I swig half of the tiny bottle and am instantly into its velvety texture that has a sour/sweet kick. It’s a bit like a milkshake shot for someone who doesn’t like milk (me) and I’m down for that so swig the rest. 10/10 would have again.”
Emily Badiozzaman, deputy head of content, ShortList Media Family