Mar 8, 2018
In its 132-year history, Coca-Cola has produced a panoply of drinks alongside its signature soda, including bottled water, juices, sports beverages and an Indian refreshment described as “spicy,” “mature” and “masculine.”
This year, the company is mixing in booze.
In Japan, a fiercely competitive market where Coca-Cola says it introduces 100 new products each year, the company plans to test a flavoured, bubbly drink spiked with alcohol.
Coca-Cola has never before ventured into the so-called alcopop sector. But fizzy drinks made with alcohol, fruit juice and sparkling water or soda, a category known as chu-hi in Japan, are popular across the country.
The new drink is the latest idea from a beverage maker that has expanded to new markets with an array of products as the sugary-soda industry, battered by concerns about its health effects, continues its multi-decade decline.
In 2016, Coca-Cola said it unveiled the equivalent of nearly two new products globally every day.
Jorge Garduño, who has led the company’s Japanese division since July, said in an interview on the Coca-Cola website that the chu-hi gambit was “a modest experiment for a specific slice of our market”.
Coca-Cola said it had no additional details about the drink, and no plans to offer it in other markets.
“I don’t think people around the world should expect to see this kind of thing from Coca-Cola,” Mr Garduño said in the interview.
While many markets are becoming more like Japan, I think the culture here is still very unique and special, so many products that are born here will stay here.”
The term chu-hi is an Japanese amalgamation of the words “highball,” a mixed drink, and “Shochu,” a spirit that can be distilled from rice barley, sweet potatoes and other ingredients. Chu-hi drinks are available across the country. Some are concocted on the spot in restaurants, but most are sold in cans at supermarkets, convenience stores and liquor shops or in vending machines.
The beverages are typically more affordable than other alcoholic drinks because their alcohol content, which is usually from 2 to 9 percent, means they are taxed less than stronger drinks.