Coca-Cola isn’t just about soda, they sell many different beverages including water, flavoured sugar water, milk, iced tea and more. In fact, in the early days of the company from 1886 – 1929, Coca-Cola even had cocaine in it. However, alcohol has never been on that list—until now.
The company is looking to produce the first alcoholic drink in its 132-year-history, with plans to launch an alcopop in Japan. The drink will be a canned version of Chu-Hi, an alcoholic drink made with shochu; a distilled beverage typically made from rice, barley, sweet potatoes and other ingredients. The company hopes to capitalize on the increase in popularity in Japan of Chu-Hi alcopops. Sales of the drink, which ranges in alcohol content from 3-8%, have surged over the past five years and is particularly popular with female drinkers.
“We haven’t experimented in the low-alcohol category before, but it’s an example of how we continue to explore opportunities outside our core areas,” Jorge Garduño, president of Coke’s Japanese business.
But those outside the Japanese market shouldn’t get too excited about seeing alcoholic Coke products on their shelves. According to an interview with the company’s Japan president, this is specifically a Japanese thing.
Sales of sodas are in decline worldwide as young people become more health conscious, cutting down on sugar consumption. And Coke’s Japanese business is unusually experimental, trying out 100 new products on average each year. Last year, it launched a version of Coke with added fibre, called Coca-Cola Plus, with Japan’s ageing population in mind.
“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,” Garduño noted.
And earlier courting with the alcohol industry
Even though Coca-Cola’s Chu-Hi drink will be its first alcoholic product, this isn’t the first time the company has been involved in the alcohol industry. In 1977, the company launched Coca-Cola’s Wine Spectrum unit, which included Sterling Vineyards, Monterey Vineyard and the Taylor Wine Company. In 1983, the Wine Spectrum unit was bought by Joseph E. Seagram & Sons for more than US$200 million.