Cheers! Coca-Cola's first alcoholic drink debuts in Japan

A display of the new Lemon-Do alcoholic drink at a shop in Fukuoka, Japan, on May 28, 2018. PHOTO: AFP

TOKYO (AFP) - Coca-Cola launched its first ever alcoholic drink on Monday (May 28) in Japan - a fizzy, lemon-flavoured concoction laced with spirits that seeks to capitalise on the growing popularity of "chuhai" alcopops enjoyed especially by young women.

Although the US firm dabbled in the wine business in the 1970s, the experiment in Japan is "unique" in the company's 125-year history, said Coca-Cola Japan president Jorge Garduno.

From Monday, three new "Lemon-Do" drinks - containing 3 per cent, 5 per cent and 7 per cent alcohol - will be available in the southern Kyushu region of Japan.

A 350ml can will set you back 150 yen (S$1.80).

"This is a pilot project in the region which has a sizeable market," Mr Masaki Iida, spokesman for Coca-Cola's Japanese unit, told AFP.

He declined to reveal the exact spirit in the drink, as the recipe is a closely guarded secret.

Coca Cola product developers got the idea after visiting Japanese-style izakaya pubs, where they discovered that lemon-flavoured drinks are very popular, according to the firm's website.

The popular "chuhai" drinks - which contain vodka or the distilled, grain-based spirit called shochu - come in a range of flavours such as grape, strawberry, kiwi and white peach.

They range in strength from between 3 per cent and 9 per cent and are particularly popular with young drinkers, especially women.

Coca-Cola is wading into an already competitive market, where major Japanese companies such as Suntory, Kirin and Asahi dominate the shelves.

And the firm's president has already dampened hopes of people hoping to get a tipple outside Japan, saying there are no plans to launch Lemon-Do outside of the country.

However, the push is seen as part of a broader campaign to diversify beyond sodas as health concerns see consumers in the US and other developed markets weaning themselves off sweet drinks and diet colas.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.