Calpis (カルピス, Karupisu) is a Japanese uncarbonated soft drink, manufactured by Calpis Co., Ltd. (カルピス株式会社, Karupisu Kabushiki-gaisha), a subsidiary of Asahi Breweries headquartered in Shibuya, Tokyo.[1]

InventorKaiun Mishima
Inception7 July 1919 (7 July 1919)
ManufacturerCalpis Co., Ltd.
Current supplierCalpis Co., Ltd.
Calpis Co., Ltd.
Native name
Karupisu Kabushiki-gaisha
IndustrySoft drinks
Founded1919 (1919)
ParentAsahi Breweries

The beverage has a light, somewhat milky, and slightly acidic flavour, similar to plain or vanilla flavoured yogurt or Yakult. Its ingredients include water, nonfat dry milk and lactic acid, and is produced by lactic acid fermentation.[2]

The drink is sold as a concentrate which is mixed with water or sometimes milk just before consumption. A pre-diluted version known as Calpis Water (カルピスウォーター, Karupisu Wōtā), or its carbonated variety, known as Calpis Soda (カルピスソーダ, Karupisu Sōda), are also available. It is also used to flavour kakigōri (shaved ice) and as a mixer for cocktails and chūhai.


Mishima's first two attempts, Daigomi and Daigoso, were named after the word 醍醐 (だいご, Daigo). Inspiration was taken from the Sanskrit word sarpir-maṇḍa (Sanskrit: सर्पिर्मण्ड), which is regarded as the greatest of all flavours in Buddhism. He wanted to do the same for Calpis and initially named it Calpir, constructing a portmanteau by combining cal from calcium and pir from sarpir-maṇḍa. However, after consulting musician Kōsaku Yamada (山田 耕筰, Yamada Kōsaku) and Buddhist priest Kaigyoku Watanabe (渡辺海旭, Watanabe Kaigyoku), Mishima chose pis from sarpiṣ (Sanskrit: सर्पिस्) instead.[3]

Primarily in North America, the name Calpis is changed to Calpico with カルピス in katakana either below or on the reverse side of the packaging—this alteration to the name ensures that any unintended associations with the English slang word for urine ("piss") are avoided.


The polka dot packaging used to be white dots against a blue background until the colours were inverted in 1953. The design was intended to represent the Milky Way, in reference to the Japanese festival, Tanabata on 7 July, a tradition seen as the start of the summer.[3]

In 1919, Calpis held an international poster exhibition in collaboration with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The contest was held to provide aid to struggling European painters due to the inflation caused by World War I.[4] After German painter Otto Dünkelsbühler won 3rd place, Calpis began using a new logo in 1923. It featured an illustration of a black man with large lips and a Panama hat drinking from a glass using a straw. As the logo came to be considered offensive, the black/white was first reversed, and then the logo was subsequently dropped altogether in January 1990. The complaint was initially filed by 12-year-old Futoshi Arita, a member of The Association to Stop Racism Against Blacks (Japanese: 黒人差別をなくす会). [5]


Still life with Calpis wrapping paper (1923), by Nakamura Tsune; launched on the day of the Star Festival in 1919, the white dots on a blue ground represent stars in the Milky Way[4]
Kaiun Mishima, the original creator of Calpis

The founder of Calpis, Kaiun Mishima, travelled to the Mongolian region of northern China (Inner Mongolia) in 1902, encountering a traditional cultured milk product known as airag (called kumis throughout most of Central Asia). The active ingredient in airag, responsible for its unique flavour, is lactic acid produced by lactobacilli bacteria. Mishima was inspired to develop his own version after the airag helped return his digestion to normal.

His first attempt was Daigomi, launched in 1916. It was made by culturing cream with lactic acid bacteria. However, Daigomi was discontinued because of two major flaws: the amount of cream extracted from milk was inadequate for mass production, and there was a surplus of skim milk created as a by-product. Afterwards, Mishima created Daigoso by culturing skimmed milk with lactic acid bacteria. However, the product was also discontinued because of poor sales. His last unsuccessful attempt was Lacto Caramel, a product that contained live lactic acid bacteria. It was discontinued because the product melted during the summer.[4][6]

Mishima went back to further developing Daigoso and created Calpis by chance. One day, he decided to add sugar to Daigoso and left it overnight. After being satisfied with the taste, Calpis was officially released on July 7, 1919, at the price of ¥1.60 per bottle.[4] Diluting Calpis with water proved to be economical, quickly garnering popularity with the people, along with the catchphrase "the taste of first love".[7]

For some time, Calpis had the image of being a special drink. Until the 1950s, it was often served to guests on special occasions or used as a gift. It was only around 1965 that it began to be treated as a normal beverage in ordinary households.[4]

Apart from the original flavour, orange-flavoured Calpis was released in 1958. Two years later, pineapple-flavoured and grape-flavoured Calpis were released. A carbonated version called Calpis Soda was also released in 1974.[3]

In 1973, sales plummeted after the price was raised.[7] However, the prediluted version released in 1991 became a huge success. Within the first year of its release, 20.5 million cases of Calpis Water had been sold. It was also around this time that the company moved towards the use of paper and plastic containers.[3]

In 2009, marketers aimed to change the image of Calpis once more. They billed it as a healthy beverage in an attempt to shy away from the idea that Calpis was only for children. Following that change, Calpis shipments in the last 10 years have grown by 1.5 times the previous amount.[7]

See also


  1. "Company Outline Archived 2010-02-05 at the Wayback Machine." Calpis Co., Ltd. Retrieved on 12 February 2010.
  2. "Asahi Soft Drinks Brand page". Asahi Soft Drinks Co., LTD. Retrieved 9 December 2022.
  3. "「カルピス」の歴史". ASAHI SOFT DRINKS CO., LTD. Retrieved 9 December 2022.
  4. "COMZINE Article". NTT COMWARE CORPORATION. Retrieved 9 December 2022.
  5. "カルピスで黒人のキャラクターのマークはなぜ差別になったの?排除された不可解な理由". Retrieved 9 December 2022.
  6. "Asahi Group Brand page". ASAHI GROUP HOLDINGS, LTD. Retrieved 9 December 2022.
  7. "Beloved Japanese Lactic Drink Calpis Turns 100". Jiji Press English News Service. 7 July 2019. ProQuest 2252809023. Retrieved 9 December 2022.
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