The ubiquitous beverage Goliath has announced that it will introduce an alcoholic drink, the first in the company’s 125-year history.
Dubbed chūhai, the drink variety will be available only in Japan — arguably the world’s most adventurous, eclectic market for new products.
Chūhai, also known as Chu-Hi, is an increasingly popular canned beverage in Japan, which blends shōchū (a vodka-like alcohol distilled from rice, potatoes, and barley) with sparkling water.
It’s anywhere from 3-8% alcohol by volume, comes in a variety of flavors (ranging from “yogurt” to “wild basil”), and appeals mainly to Japan’s female demographic.
The market’s been growing at a rate of 5-25% per year since 2013 — and now, Coca-Cola wants in.
Japan: an “unusually experimental” market
Coca-Cola first debuted in Japan in 1910 and has been widely available there since 1960 — but their carbonated soft drinks make up only about 25% of their overall sales there.
And there’s a reason for that: Japanese consumers place a very high premium on “trying new things.” Many businesses in Japan operate on the principle of kaizen, a style of innovation that encourages constantly “changing for the better” by introducing new products.
Last year alone, Coca-Cola released over 100 different products in Japan — and now they’re getting back on the wagon with their first alcoholic product.