Yakult boss urges clarity from UK over Brexit

By Cheryl Tay

- Last updated on GMT

Yakult sells 190,000 bottles of its signature probiotic drink per day in the UK.
Yakult sells 190,000 bottles of its signature probiotic drink per day in the UK.
Yakult's president has urged the UK to clearly define its Brexit strategy, but has pledged that the firm is committed to continuing its business in the country.

This comes after disagreements have arisen over what the UK owes the EU upon the former's departure, which increases the possibility that Britain might leave without a deal.

This could, in turn, spell trouble for businesses.

Despite this, Yakult president Takashige Negishi has indicated the company's intention to remain in the country, whatever the result of the Brexit negotiations.

Negishi told Bloomberg​: "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."

However, clarity — or the lack thereof — has been an ongoing worry in the food and nutrition sectors when it comes to Brexit.

Earlier this year, a report​ from the Science Policy Research Unit (SPRU) at the University of Sussex highlighted the absence of concrete government policy as symptomatic of a dearth of clarity within the UK food sector.

This has given rise to concerns about quality, prices, and supply.

The report stated that the uncertainties surrounding Brexit "could result in serious nutritional problems"​, adding that there was a risk of reduced supplies, volatile prices, diminished environmental sustainability, compromised food safety, and undermined public trust.

Workforce woes

There are also fears that Brexit could lead to a shortage in the UK's workforce, thanks to the large numbers of EU employees in the country.

In fact, a recent survey by the Food and Drink Federation found that 36% of the surveyed businesses said they would become redundant if they could not hire staff from the EU, while 31% reported having already lost employees from the EU.

Furthermore, 17% said they would consider relocating their operations overseas if they were unable to hire EU nationals.

Brexit could potentially complicate the relationship between Japan and the UK, which would inevitably affect Japanese businesses that have a presence in the country.

Currently, Japanese companies employ about 140,000 people in the UK, and Yakult sells a daily 190,000 bottles of its signature probiotic drink in the country.

Last year, president of the Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry in the UK, Haruki Hayashi, warned that leaving the EU's single market would put Japanese firms looking for a "gateway to Europe"​ at risk.

Still, Yakult remains resolute in its decision to stay in the UK.

Negishi said, "Whichever way Brexit goes, we are committed to the UK. Watch this space."

Yakult, whose biggest investor is Danone, has a market value of close to $14bn. So far, its sales have not been affected by Brexit, Negishi revealed.

While its probiotic drink is imported to the UK (its largest market in Europe) from a factory in the Netherlands, the company has opted not to raise prices in response to Brexit.

Negishi said: "(It's) not easy for us, (but) we don't want to just follow the price increases of competitors' products."

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