Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg
Japan's Yakult Seeks Brexit Clarity to Protect Consumer SpendingBy
Probiotic-drink maker worried about consumer instability
Company says it plans to stay in U.K. no matter the outcome
The U.K. needs to clarify its Brexit plans to avoid undermining consumer confidence as talks on leaving the European Union run into roadblocks, according to one of Japan’s biggest food companies.
Yakult Honsha Co., which sells 190,000 bottles of its probiotic, yogurt-like drink in the U.K. daily, intends to stay in the country regardless of the outcome of the Brexit negotiations, company President Takashige Negishi said in an interview. Talks have bogged down this month, raising the likelihood of a messy divorce in which Britain leaves the bloc without a deal, potentially creating chaos for business.
Negishi said in an interview in London, “We would like the direction of Brexit to be shown as early as possible so that the sentiment of consumers does not become unstable and have an adverse effect on economic activity.”
Japanese companies have shed their traditional preference for discretion as Brexit threatens to complicate relations with a country in which they employ 140,000 people. Haruki Hayashi, president of the Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry in the U.K., last year warned that dropping out of the EU’s single market and customs union posed a risk for Japanese companies seeking a “gateway to Europe,” while carmaker Nissan received special assurances from the government of Prime Minister Theresa May when it pledged new investments in a U.K. plant.
“Whichever way Brexit goes, we are committed to the U.K.,” Negishi said. “Watch this space.”
Yakult, which has a market value of nearly $14 billion and counts France’s Danone as its largest investor, hasn’t seen an impact on sales from the vote to leave the EU, Negishi said. The company hasn’t raised prices in Britain as a result of Brexit, though the drink is imported from a factory in the Netherlands.
The U.K., the company’s biggest market in Europe, is “not easy for us,” Negishi said, but “we don’t want to just follow the price increases of competitors’ products.”