Our Story

Our Mission

Our mission is to inspire happiness and wellbeing for all. After all – who wouldn’t want that? This dream was born out of our founder’s belief that prevention of illness is better than cure, and that gut health is key to wellbeing.

His vision still drives us and all that we do today.

"We contribute to the health and happiness of people around the world through the pursuit of excellence in life sciences in general and our research and experience in microorganisms in particular."

Our Story


Fast forward to today

While we began our journey in Japan, we didn’t stop there. Now over 40 million people enjoy Yakult products every day, across over 40 countries and regions around the world. And 111,000 people are now part of the Yakult family globally. Go team!

Yakult Dr Shirota looking into a microscope

Meet our fantastic founder

Dr Minoru Shirota was a remarkable man. Ok, we’re a little biased, but he really was. He was a pioneer in microbiology and he was driven to contribute to the health and happiness of others. Let’s see where it all began.

The start of the Shirota story

Minoru Shirota was born in 1899 in Iida-shi, Nagano province – the third son of the seven children to Hanshichi (father) and Tame Shirota. His family were silk wholesalers and his father worked at a bank.

Minoru and microbiology

Sadly, in the early 20th century, poor hygiene and nutrition caused the deaths of many people in Japan. Disturbed by this, the young scientist Dr Shirota set out to understand the mysteries of microorganisms. In 1921 he started studying microbiology at the University of Kyoto. It was here Dr Shirota formed the belief that a healthy gut contributes to a healthy life. Minoru decided to become a doctor and to study disease, with the goal of helping people.

bacteria scaled up

Unique bacteria

To do that, Dr Shirota set out to find the right bacteria that was strong enough to reach the gut alive and still live-in harmony with the other bacteria already there. In 1930, in the same month that he achieved his doctor’s degree, he was finally successful in isolating and cultivating the lactic acid bacteria he had been searching for – L. casei Shirota.

Yakult Original with traditional glass bottle

Yakult is Born

It was 1935 when he developed a fermented milk drink as the ideal carrier for the L. casei Shirota. He named this Yakult, inspired by the Esperanto word for yoghurt ‘Yahurto’. At that time Esperanto was tipped to be the universal language, and Dr Shirota was keen to choose a name that could be understood globally. Cheers to that.


Yakult lady smiling

Big things start small

Dr Shirota started by simply handing  Yakult out to patients in his region. Word of his new discovery soon spread and demand rocketed. To make his little bottles widely available throughout Japan, the Yakult company took a unique approach. In 1963, the innovative Yakult Ladies home delivery system was launched. These were the company’s first social pioneers!

Yakult Promotion Centres

This is where the Yakult Ladies were trained and learned how to prepare Yakult for delivery. Dr Shirota never liked the term sales centres because, in reality, they weren’t. They had the aim of promoting wellbeing and happiness. Today there are 2,448 across Japan, and they’re still very much a part of the community making Yakult accessible and affordable for all – a core belief of Shirota-ism.