No longer content with merely being a mixer, Coca-Cola is moving into Japan’s highly competitive canned spirits market.
Besides its cola namesake (which actress Haruka Ayase is promoting in the top image), Coca-Cola Japan also sells various types of bottled Japanese tea under different brand names. The move into the country’s lucrative canned chu-hai segment feels inevitable.
According to The Financial Times, Coca-Cola does not plan to offer alcoholic drinks in other regions. But this isn’t the first time Coca-Cola has sold alcohol: During the 1970s, the company bought some US vineyards and briefly sold canned wine in-flight on United Airlines.
Ranging in alcohol content from 3 to 9 percent, canned chu-hai is made from white liquor, carbonated water and a range of flavorings, with the default chu-hai flavor being lemon. Canned chu-hai is an inexpensive, mass-market ready-to-drink twist on the distilled shochu, a spirit typically made from rice, barley, or potatoes; however, it’s not to be confused with proper shochu (honkaku shochu), which isn’t carbonated or artificially flavored.
The canned chu-hai market is huge in Japan, and as I mention in my new book Japanese Whisky, it’s even taken on—and surpassed—whisky. The Financial Times reports that the chu-hai market has grown 40 percent since 2011, so Coca-Cola’s decision to sell canned chu-hai makes sense, even if the competition is fierce.
It’ll be interesting to see if the company uses its cola brand or comes up with something original to go against the likes of Suntory, Kirin, Takara Shuzo and more. Don’t expect to see Coca-Cola branded booze, but you never know.
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