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), headquartered in Shibuya, Tokyo. Calpis Co. is a subsidiary of Asahi. The beverage has a light, somewhat milky, and slightly acidic flavor, similar to plain or vanilla flavored yogurt or Yakult. Its ingredients include water, nonfat dry milk and lactic acid, and is produced by lactic acid fermentation.
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 flavor kakigori (shaved ice) and as a mixer for cocktails and chuhai.
It was first marketed on July 7, 1919. It quickly became popular in pre war Japan, as its concentrated form meant it kept well without refrigeration. The polka dot packaging used to be white dots against a blue background until the colours were inverted in 1953. It was originally themed on the Milky Way, which is in reference to the Japanese festival of Tanabata on July 7, a traditional observation seen as the start of the summer.
The name Calpis was constructed as a portmanteau, by combining cal from calcium and pis from Sanskrit सर पिस sarpis (butter flavor). 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.
Originally rumored to be so because Calpis sounds similar to cow piss in English, Asahi (the current owner of the brand) has since made this an "official" explanation as they use this as a joke when introducing prospective company employees to the brand due to its well known status in Japan versus that of the global market. Japanese food services/importers such as JFS/JFCS/JFC in North America will also offer this explanation to their clients who are familiar with the brand.
Calpis's original logo was a simplified black and white depiction of a black man with large lips drinking from a glass using a straw. The logo was developed from a painting by a German artist depicting a black person wearing a Panama hat drinking Calpis. As the logo came to be considered offensive, the black/white was first reversed, and then the logo was subsequently dropped altogether.
The founder of Calpis, Kaiun Mishima, traveled to the Mongolian region of northern China ("Inner Mongolia") in 1904, 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 flavor, is lactic acid produced by lactobaccilli bacteria. Upon returning to Japan, he resolved to develop beverages based on cultured milk and lactic acid.
- "The CALPIS® Story". Calpis Co., Ltd. Retrieved 12 October 2015.
- "Company Outline." Calpis. Retrieved on February 12, 2010.
- News on Japan - Calpis vs. Calpico
- "‘Swing Easy soda swell out the blow’ — Japanese Calpis Soda commercial". 3yen.com. Retrieved 27 July 2012.