Coca-Cola Co., which has sold its famous soft drink for more than 130 years, wants customers in Japan to try something harder.
The company is launching a canned version of Chu-Hi, an alcoholic drink made with shochu, a distilled beverage typically made from rice, barley, sweet potatoes and other ingredients. The move is a first for Coke, which has stuck to cola and other non-alcoholic drinks except for its brief ownership of a wine subsidiary that ended in 1983.
Chu-Hi is considered a low-alcohol beverage, but proofs can range as high as 18 (9 percent alcohol by volume).
"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 Garduño, president of Coke's Japanese business, said in a blog post.
Exploration of the low-alcohol category comes as CEO James Quincey has emphasized the need for the beverage giant to appeal to consumers at different times of the day. People drink an average of eight, 8-ounce drinks a day, and Quincey wants Coca-Cola to be the source of more of those servings.
Coke announced earlier this year that it is catering to alcoholic-beverage consumers by spiffing up its mixers.
The Japanese market has long been a place where Coca-Cola has been the most innovative. That unit launches an average of 100 new products a year, according to Coke. The Chu-Hi drink will be available only in Japan, for now. "It's an example of how we continue to explore opportunities outside our core areas," Garduño said.