Yogurt is enjoying brisk sales as makers and the media tout its efficacy as a health and beauty food, despite the sluggishness in business surrounding milk products, according to market sources.

Many dairy products makers turned to developing yogurt products after the milk market was hit hard by Snow Brand Milk Products Co.’s widespread food-poisoning scandal in summer 2000.

Another cause of the popularity is television programs that tout yogurt’s lactic acid bacilli as helpful in regulating the functions of the intestines and in preventing numerous ailments, according to the sources.

Morinaga Milk Industry Co. said sales of yogurt surged 40 percent in May from a year earlier, thanks to strong sales of a yogurt product the company claims could prevent liver inflammation, as well as another yogurt product containing aloe.

“We are very surprised to see such a strong response,” a Morinaga Milk spokesman said.

Glico Dairy Products Co. reported a 58 percent surge in sales in the April-May period compared with a year earlier.

A Glico spokesman said its sales of banana yogurt surged after a TV program said consuming yogurt together with fruit is good for the stomach because it helps encourage lactic acid bacilli activity in the intestines.

Meiji Dairies Corp., in cooperation with Tokai University, in 2000 found a lactic acid bacilli, LG21, which it claims helps in the treatment of gastric sores.

The company said LG21 and its improved home delivery service helped its yogurt sales rise 8.2 percent in fiscal 2001 to 74.9 billion yen, projecting that sales could top 80 billion yen in the current fiscal year.

Officials of Yakult Honsha Co., which has dealt with products including lactic acid bacilli since before the war, said sales of their products usually do not fall even in the rainy season when more food poisoning cases are reported — due to the dampness and warmth — because the products are good for the intestines and the stomach.

Officials of Calpis Co., which has jointly established a yogurt firm with Ajinomoto Co. and The Danone Institute of Japan, said they plan to install another production line to cover increasing demand.

Those in the industry are eager to develop new products, hoping the market will expand further.

The Consumers Union of Japan, however, has expressed concern that excessive consumption of yogurt could cause a loss of nutritional balance because healthy bodies already have a certain amount of such bacilli.

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