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Lifeway Foods produces kefir drinks in the Chicago area. (CBS)

Lifeway Foods produces kefir drinks in the Chicago area. (CBS)

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(CBS) — Lifeway Foods calls it the champagne of milks: a yogurt-like drink full of calcium and protein called kefir.

Their drinks come in many flavors and are heavy in probiotics.

“They’re microorganisms that you need for your body to maintain its wellness, and they fight off different bacteria, stomach ailments,” says Julie Smolyansky. “They can help prevent diarrhea, they can reduce the side effects of antibiotic use.”

Smolyansky would know. Lifeway was created by her parents after the family emigrated from Russia in 1976. In 2002, when her father passed, Julie and her brother took over. That was before the pro-biotic boom.

Sales have since grown from $12 million to $100 million.

Aside from their Morton Grove production facility, Lifeway is adding another larger one in Waukesha, Wisc.

Once it’s produced in Illinois, nearly all of the kefir is shipped out from a 100,000-square-foot warehouse in Niles, all over the country. The company has plans for global expansion.

Smolyansky says her late father would be pleased.

“I think it would be really exciting for him to see this happen. He dreamed of a bottle of kefir in every American’s refrigerator,” she says.

The children’s products, called ProBugs, will soon be on store shelves.

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