We’ve stuffed our stomachs with all sorts of indulgent things in the past month, but the time has come to at least try and start the year on the right foot. Purported to help aid digestion are probiotics: live bacteria or yeasts that help keep the natural balance of bacteria in the gut in check and contribute to overall health, with some even claiming other benefits that include helping with ulcers, infections, and more (note that the validity of many of claims remains a matter of debate). Aside from getting your dose via supplements, you’ll find many probiotic sources of the edible sort, in the form of some traditional fermented foods as well as more modern creations—e.g., probiotic milk drinks. And among its iconic forms is Yakult, a Japanese fermented milk drink sold in its iconic 80-millileter bottle.
Yakult was created by Japanese microbiologist Minoru Shirota, who had selected and cultivated Yakult’s defining friendly bacteria: a strain of Lactobacillus casei deemed “Shirota”. Since being launched in 1935, Yakult’s helped catapult the power of probiotics to fame all around the world, including the Philippines (for 37 years and counting, as a matter of fact). Health claims (and counter-arguments against them) aside, a big part of Yakult’s popularity can be attributed to its characteristic flavor: a sweet, tangy, yogurt- or buttermilk-like mix whose crowd-pleasing appeal’s even spawned a number of spin-off confections (e.g. ice cream and fruity tea blends)—as well as competitor brands. But can any of the relative newcomers knock Yakult off the throne?
Note: we sampled all brands cold, straight from the fridge, and guzzling straight from the bottle without the use of straws. Focus was given on taste and texture, rather than health or nutritional benefit. Do note that the sufficiency of getting probiotics from food remains a widely debated matter, and it is best to consult your doctor for any health-related queries.
Hailing from Japan, Yakult has enjoyed popularity in the Philippines for more than three decades, winning over Filipino tastebuds with the classic probiotic milk drink taste that’s just the right amount of sweet, is not too milky, and delivers and distinctively fruity tanginess in a clear, unwavering manner at the end. The beverage is on the thin side consistency-wise, with a tannic feel on the tongue that keeps it refreshing. We only wish it came in a bigger bottle.
Dutch Mill Delight
This Thai brand is better known for their tetra pak-contained yogurt drinks, the flavor lineup of which used to include a “natural” variant which, judging by how we never see it around anymore, we assume to have since been discontinued. For its old fans however (the author included), you’re in luck: this relatively new take addition to their product line—now marketed to focus more on its probiotic abilities—closely mimics the taste of the said retired flavor. Compared to Yakult it’s much sweeter with a stronger (and more tropical fruit-leaning) tang. It carries a thicker, more syrupy mouthfeel which can get cloying consumed in excess, but is just right given the small size of the bottle.
Taiwanese brand Go Long only comes in big bottles that look curiously similar to Yakult’s in form. Their version carries a much milkier and creamier, flavor-wise, which makes for a more indulgent and sip and can take a bit of getting used to if you’re accustomed to Yakult’s leaner blend. Still, it bears a just-right consistency in between the previous two brands—on the thin side like Yakult but with less tannin—and with not too much sweetness,.we found ourselves downing the whole bottle in no time.
The Verdict: Yakult
Perhaps it’s nostalgia at play, but while we’re always open to going out of our comfort zones, it’s hard to beat the OG here—at least in so far as it provides the characteristic balance of flavors and refreshing mouthfeel that makes it the most deliciously drinkable of the bunch. Go Long’s creamier version nonetheless strikes a chord with the milk-loving members of the team, while Dutch Mill’s sweeter, tangier version is great when you’re looking for a more dessert-like sip. Actual effectivity on our gut health notwithstanding, if at least for their tongue-tingling allure, we’ll continue to guzzle down these totally tasty drinks.