A good 130 years ago, the Coca-Cola Company, sold the original cocaine-infused Coca Wine, which was endorsed by Queen Victoria and Pope Leo XIII. In 1970s it had a brief flirtation with the wine market, which quickly fizzled out as it found that a growing number of middle-aged consumers preferred diet soda over other drinks. And so it didn’t come as a surprise when it sold the low-return business in 1983. Now for the first time in history, it will begin selling its own kind of alcohol – an Alcoholic Coke!
The alcoholic coke is indeed be a table thumping decision. But, as exciting as this news may be, the game-changing drink will be introduced initially in Japan.
It seems like Coca-Cola has thrown the sleeping mask out of the boardroom and is finally listening to the institutional stakeholders who want the world’s largest beverage company to enhance and expand its global franchise.
What’s the Coca-Cola Alcoholic Drink?
The alcoholic coke, called Lemon-Do, will use a popular type of Japanese alcopop ‘Chu-Hi’, mixed with lemon-flavored carbonated water. What is Chu-Hi and is it available in the U.S.? According to Jorge Garduno, Coca-Cola's Japan president, it’s actually a distilled beverage called shōchū (pronounced show-chew) and sparkling water. It used to be sold at Sunrise Mart in New York, but it can’t hurt to check on it again though.
Lemon-Do is an alternative to beer and, to my surprise, is largely seen as a female drink. The lemon-flavored alcopop will be available with 3%, 5%, and 7% alcohol, but only to consumers on the Japanese island of Kyushu.
There is a lot of argument about Coca-Cola’s foray into the alcoholic space on Wall Street. Will the alcoholic coke contribute to Coke’s long-term profits? As Kevin Grandy, equity analyst at investment firm Jeffries told Forbes, “we view it as more evolutionary than revolutionary, consistent with Coke’s openness to emerging categories outside its core.”
Coca-Cola has put acceleration on fifth gear in recent years as it seeks to modernize its global portfolio. A boozy, aspartame-laden carbonated offering is still increasingly avoided by the average American. According to Euromonitor, global consumption for fizzy drinks fell 3.1% between 2012 and 2017, with double-digit declines in Brazil and U.S.
"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," Jorge Garduno, Coca-Cola's Japan president, told the BBC.
Industry Leaders Magazine was among the first to report on Coke’s decision to break its 130-year-old tradition to increase profits.
Coca-Cola’s Interest in Alcoholic Beverages
This launch doesn’t mean Coca-Cola is going to offer alcoholic drinks worldwide. The company has yet to make plans to launch Lemon-Do throughout Japan, let alone to the rest of the world.
Although, the Japanese market is where Coca-Cola likes to wear its lab coat in stride. The company tests 100 products each year on the country’s shelves, few of which ever leave its borders.
Yet, we can see a greater thirst on the management’s part to shift to edgy, alcoholic beverages. Last year in Spain, Coca-Cola launched Royal Bliss the high-end glass-bottled mixers with the initial run available only in bars and restaurants.
All evidence says we’ll soon see investors flooding onto the company’s doorsteps as it deepens its interest in boozy drinks.
If you are someone who likes to try out new things, give Lemon-Do a whirl. Granting, you might have better success finding it in Kyushu.