Coca-Cola diversification efforts lead to Japanese alcopops

Chu Hi, sold in Japanese convenience store / Japan Online

The Coca-Cola Company is set to release its first ever alcohol drink in its 125-year history as its diversification efforts continue.

While it owns brands across soda, water, tea, nutrition and energy categories a natural but unentered sector was the alcohol sector, despite Coca-Cola serving as a steadfast preferred mixer for spirits.

In Japan, the company will release alcopops or Chu-Hi, a drink with between 3% to 8% alcohol content. It is a popular drink traditionally marketed towards women as an alternative to beer – something BrewDog attempted with beer earlier this week.

The Coca-Cola revelation was unveiled by the company’s Japan president Jorge Garduno. He said it was a “modest experiment for a specific slice of our market".

"This is a canned drink that includes alcohol; traditionally, it is made with a distilled beverage called shōchū and sparkling water, plus some flavoring. 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 underlined that the product is "unique in our history". "Coca-Cola has always focused entirely on non-alcoholic beverages. The Chu-Hi category is found almost exclusively in Japan. 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."

The effort will likely be monitored by other regions.

The Financial Times reports that the Japanese market for Chu-Hi has rapidly expanded in recent years, with annual growth fluctuating between 5 and 25% since 2013. This explains the soda brand’s entrance into the space.

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