First Coca-Cola Alcoholic Drink Debuts
Coca-Cola has launched its first alcoholic drink, a lemon-flavored alcopop, in Japan in a bid to tap new markets and consumers.
In a global first for the US drinks giant, three fizzy lemon drinks went on sale on Monday.
The product aims at a growing market of young drinkers – especially women.
Described by Coca-Cola as “unique” in the company’s 125-year history, the three drinks range from three to eight per cent alcohol.
In keeping with the company’s tradition, the recipe is closely guarded but the drinks are modelled on the country’s popular Chu-Hi drinks, usually a mix of local spirit and a range of fruit flavours.
Chu-Hi – an abbreviation for shochu highball – has been marketed as an alternative to beer, proving especially popular with female drinkers.
Local companies like Suntory, Asahi and Kirin currently dominate the sector for canned Chu-Hi drinks.
The most popular flavours are strong citrus ones such as grapefruit or lemon, the latter one being the taste Coca Cola now wants a share of.
Coca-Cola says there are no plans to bring the new drinks range to markets outside Japan.
Alcopop drinks boomed in Europe and the UK in the 1990s with the likes of Smirnoff Ice and Bacardi Breezer becoming hugely popular.
They were controversial, with concerns they encouraged young people to drink more alcohol because of soft drink-like taste.
Monday marks the launch of the first alcoholic Coca-Cola product in company history, but only a small group of people will be able to buy it. The lemon-flavored fizzy drink will be available with 3%, 5%, and 7% alcohol, but only to consumers on the Japanese island of Kyushu.
The drink, called Lemon-Do, joins a raft of competitors selling similar alcoholic sodas in the Japanese market, locally called Chu-Hi, which typically combine a grain-based alcohol with flavored carbonated water. The canned drinks offer a cheaper alternative to beer and more choice in flavor and alcohol content, ranging from less than 3% alcohol to 8%.
But this launch doesn’t mean Coca-Cola (KO, +0.19%) is going to offer alcoholic drinks more widely. The company hasn’t even made plans to launch the product throughout Japan, let alone offer booze to the rest of the world. In fact, the Japanese market is one of Coca-Cola’s most experimental. On average, the company tests 100 products each year on the country’s shelves, few of which ever leave its borders.
Apart from a brief flirtation with the wine market in the 1970s, Coca-Cola has never been in the intoxicating liquids business—that is, if you don’t count the cocaine it used to use in its early recipes.