The 132-year wait is over.
Monday marks the launch of the first alcoholic Coca-Cola product in company history, but only a small group of people will be able to buy it. The lemon-flavored fizzy drink will be available with 3%, 5%, and 7% alcohol, but only to consumers on the Japanese island of Kyushu.
The drink, called Lemon-Do, joins a raft of competitors selling similar alcoholic sodas in the Japanese market, locally called Chu-Hi, which typically combine a grain-based alcohol with flavored carbonated water. The canned drinks offer a cheaper alternative to beer and more choice in flavor and alcohol content, ranging from less than 3% alcohol to 8%.
But this launch doesn’t mean Coca-Cola (KO) is going to offer alcoholic drinks more widely. The company hasn’t even made plans to launch the product throughout Japan, let alone offer booze to the rest of the world. In fact, the Japanese market is one of Coca-Cola’s most experimental. On average, the company tests 100 products each year on the country’s shelves, few of which ever leave its borders.
Apart from a brief flirtation with the wine market in the 1970s, Coca-Cola has never been in the intoxicating liquids business—that is, if you don’t count the cocaine it used to use in its early recipes.