Coca Cola will launch its first ever alcoholic drink in Japan this summer, with a view to sending it worldwide next year.
Coca-Cola is planning a break with 125 years of tradition to experiment with its first alcoholic drink as the world’s largest soft drinks company eyes Japan’s growing market for “Chu-Hi” alcopops.
The experiment, which a senior Coca Cola Exec described as “unique in our history”, will propel the US Company into a competitive alcopop market dominated by Japanese brands such as Strong Zero, Highball Lemon and Slat.
The plans, which Coca Cola Japans boss said “make sense” given the strength of the Chu-Hi market, have come to light almost four months after a US-based analyst at Wells Fargo speculated in a report that Coke might shortly announce a move into alcoholic drinks.
At an investor conference in November, according to media reports, James Quincey, Coke chief executive, did not rule out such a move, but offered no timing, scale or detail on ambitions to go global depending on sales results.
Source: Irish Times
Coke’s Chu-Hi experiment has come to light via the company’s own website, which last month uploaded the text of an interview with Jorge Garduño, president of its Japanese business unit.
In answer to a question about what new products he anticipates bringing to market in 2018, Mr Garduño is quoted as saying that the company will experiment with a product in a category known in Japan as Chu-Hi – “a canned drink that includes alcohol”, traditionally made, he adds, from a distilled beverage called shochu, sparkling water and flavouring.
The Chu-Hi market has hundreds of flavour varieties and, according to figures used by the Japanese drinks group Suntory, has seen growth fluctuate between 5 and 25 per cent year on year since 2013.
Mr Garduno said the plan to enter the market was an example of how the company was exploring opportunities outside its core areas:
“Coca-Cola has always focused entirely on non-alcoholic beverages, and this is a modest experiment for a specific slice of our market. There’s a lot of focus on innovation. We’re making innovations in Coke, innovations with flavours, innovations with ingredients all around the world…taking it into different categories than it was in before.”
Chu-Hi canned drinks mostly range in alcohol content between 3 and 8 per cent – a profile that has put them in direct competition with beer, and proved particularly attractive to female drinkers. The appeal of Chu-Hi has been enhanced by the relentless trial-and-error approach by major Japanese producers Kirin, Asahi, Takara and Suntory, which have released flavours that include yoghurt, acerola and wild basil.
See: History of Chu Hi
In the late 1970s Coca-Cola embarked on a short experiment with wines, buying a number of California vineyards and a New York wine company. The culminated in, among other items, the sale of wine in cans on United Airlines flights.