For the first time in its 125 year history, Coca-Cola will be giving consumers — at least in Japan– more than just a caffeine buzz.
The company is planning to introduce an alcoholic drink for the Japanese market called Chu-Hi.
“This is a canned drink that includes alcohol; traditionally, it is made with a distilled beverage called shochu and sparkling water, plus some flavoring,” Jorge Garduño, Coke’s Japan president, said on the company website.
“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,” he added.
The so called “alcopop” style beverage will be between 3 percent and 8 percent alcohol by volume. A can of Budweiser contains 5 percent alcohol.
Garduño called Chu-Hi a “modest experiment for a specific slice of our market.”
“Globally, it’s not uncommon for non-alcoholic beverages to be sold in the same system as alcoholic beverages. It makes sense to give this a try in our market,” he said.
“But I don’t think people around the world should expect to see this kind of thing from Coca-Cola. 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.”
Coke faces some stiff drink competition in Japan, where similarly alcoholic beverages — ranging in flavors from kiwi to yuzu — are already popular, according to the International Business Times.
In 1983, the first Chu-Hi product was released in Japan and called HiLicky.
Since then, the market for alcopops has grown exponentially in the country. On the other hand, the demand for fizzy and sports drinks has been getting flat across the globe, shrinking the market for some of Coke’s strongest performing drinks at one time, IBTimes reported.
No timetable was released for the launch of the alcoholic product in Japan. The company has no current plans to introduce the beverage in the U.S.