Discounting its beginnings as a cocaine-and-wine concoction, and its short-lived wine arm in the 1970s, Coca-Cola largely stayed away from the business of delivering a high in its 125-year history. Till yesterday. The company has now launched its first-ever alcoholic drink, Lemon-Do, in Japan.
According to AFP, the new fizzy, lemon-flavoured concoction laced with spirits seeks to capitalise on the growing popularity of "chuhai" alcopops, enjoyed especially by young Japanese women. Lemon-Do drinks - containing three, five and seven per cent alcohol - is now available only in the southern Kyushu region of Japan and a 350-millilitre can will set you back 150 yen ($1.40).
"This is a pilot project in the region which has a sizable market," said Masaki Iida, spokesman for Coca-Cola's Japanese unit. He declined to reveal the exact spirit in the drink, as this recipe is a closely guarded secret, much like the company's signature beverage. What is known, thanks to the firm's website, is that Coca-Cola's product developers got the idea after visiting Japanese-style "izakaya" pubs, where they discovered that lemon-flavoured drinks are very popular in the country.
The "chuhai" drinks that inspired Coca Cola, come in a range of flavours such as grape, strawberry, kiwi and white peach and contain vodka or a distilled, grain-based spirit called "shochu". They have been branded as the alternative beer and are quite popular with consumers who like to stay away from hard drinks. With an ever-growing number of health-conscious consumers distancing themselves from sodas and colas, even the diet cola varieties, Coca Cola has long recognised the need to diversify its portfolio.
So after flavoured vitamin water, a sports drink, Honest tea and Dasani bottled water, it has now jumped to tap the expanding "chuhai" market. But it won't be a breeze. The company is wading into an already competitive market where major Japanese companies such as Suntory, Kirin and Asahi dominate the shelves.
This is where we need to break the bad news: The company has no plans to extend the experiment beyond Japan. The Times of India previously quoted Coca-Cola Japan president Jorge Garduno saying that while it makes sense for Coca Cola to make the tipple in Japan, he does not see the release of the product elsewhere in the world. Because though many markets are becoming more like Japan, the culture in Japan is still very unique and special and that many products that are born there is likely to stay there. So to get a taste of Lemon-Do, you will have to catch a flight.
Still wondering about the cocaine link in the first paragraph? It's true. It got its name from two key ingredients: Coca leaves, which contains traces of cocaine, and the caffeine-rich kola nuts. Though the company stopped infusing the drug in the drink in the early 20th century, but as per media reports "decocainized coca leaf extract" is still very much a part of the recipe.
(With agency inputs)