Why Coca-Cola Is Finally Getting Into the Booze Business

March 7, 2018, 9:56 AM UTC

The Coca-Cola Company sells a lot of different beverage types, from water and milk to iced tea and many, many permutations of flavored sugar-water. However, alcohol has never been on that list—until now.

The company is going to start selling an alcopop, or Chu-Hi, exclusively in the Japanese market. The low-alcohol drink, also known as Chūhai, is essentially a watered-down mix of the shōchū spirit plus flavoring.

But those outside the Japanese market shouldn’t get too excited about seeing alcoholic Coke products on their shelves. According to an interview with the company’s Japan president, Jorge Garduño—actually published a couple weeks back on Coca-Cola’s corporate site, though no-one seems to have noticed until now—this is very specifically a Japanese thing.

“The Chu-Hi category is found almost exclusively in Japan,” Garduño said. “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. But I don’t think people around the world should expect to see this kind of thing from Coca-Cola.”

Coke’s Japanese business is unusually experimental, trying out 100 new products on average each year. Along with the new Chu-Hi, the firm will this year also launch the excitingly-named “THE TANSAN,” which Garduño said “features the strongest carbonation ever in our products in this country, to reach health conscious adult sparkling lovers.”

Last year, it launched a version of Coke with added fiber, called Coca-Cola Plus, with Japan’s ageing population in mind.

“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,” Garduño noted.