The new sales branches are located in Hunan (Hengyang City), Anhui (Wuhu City) and Guangdong (Zhaoqing City) Provinces, taking the firm’s total to 49 across the country.
Sales of its Yakult and Yakult Light range will begin in July 2020 for Hengyang and Wuhu cities through supermarkets channels. The branches are estimated to sell 36,000 and 29,000 bottles daily respectively.
Supermarket sales in Zhaoqing City will start in August 2020, and it is expected to sell 40,000 bottles daily.
The company also revealed that it was expanding its factory site in Wuxi, Jiangsu Province.
The new plant named Wuxi Plant 2 was scheduled to begin construction in April 2020, but has since been delayed to August due to the pandemic.
It is expected to be completed by April 2022, bringing the total production capacity of Wuxi Plant 1 and 2 to 5.4 million bottles daily.
Hideki Maruyama from Yakult Honsha’s public relations told NutraIngredients-Asia the new plant would help cope with the future increase in demand as Chinese consumers became increasingly more knowledgeable on probiotics and its health benefits.
Yakult sold an average of 7.6 million bottles in China from January to December 2019, compared to 7.5 million bottles the year before, according to its annual report.
Although the firm recorded a dip in business earlier in the year, sales have since bounced back.
Maruyama said bottles sales in March this year exceeded those of the corresponding period last year. While the firm was unable to provide detailed figures, Maruyam said: “We believe that a decrease in the number of COVID-19 cases in China, the restarting of the home delivery channel with Yakult Ladies, and the restarting of deliveries to stores that had been temporarily suspended are the primary factors for this.”
In addition, customers were beginning to visit supermarkets and hypermarkets, its main sales channel.
He said Wuxi City was ideal for its transportation network because it has well-established infrastructure, is located in the centre of Mainland China’s coast, and has a well-developed expressway network.
The firm has six plants operating in five cities, reaching out to 700 million people in China, just half of the country’s 1.4 billion population.
Yakult Honsha reported revenue and net profit of JPY 406 billion (USD3.7bn) and JPY39.7 billion (USD370mn) respectively in FY2019.