Big news last week came from an unexpected source: Coca-Cola Japan. In a blog post/interview on Coca-Cola's Journey site, Coca-Cola Japan CEO Jorge Garduño stated that the company is planning to launch a chuhai in the RTD category this year. Some eagle-eyed reporters picked this up and it's hit international news.
Since the blog post though, Coca-Cola Japan has made no official statement on the release. And I have plenty of questions that need answering! From other sources though, we now also know that Coca-Cola Japan plans on launching the product early this summer, and only in Kyushu.
It might seem an odd choice to not launch what could be a wildly successful product in Tokyo, but remember we are dealing with chuhai here: a shochu highball. Kyushu is the birthplace of shochu and Coca-Cola West calls Fukuoka home. The company also sponsors a Fukuoka-based rugby team, the Coca-Cola Red Sparks.
We've also learned that Coca-Cola Japan understandably plans to contract out the manufacture of the new product. Coca-Cola West already has an established relationship with Satsuma Shuzo, maker of the ubiquitous Satsuma Shiranami shochu: they're the third largest shareholder. Will the product just be a "Coca-Cola Chuhai" or something entirely different?
RTDs including chuhai are selling extremely well in Japan. Most industry players are expecting double-digit growth this year, with some estimates as high as 35%. So it makes sense that Coke would try and grab a slice of the pie.
As perhaps the internet's only blog covering new chuhai releases on a regular basis, watch this space!
Update 15-Mar-2018: Further reports indicate that there will be 3 different products of various flavors and abvs to start. The first is a lemon-flavored chuhai in May of this year, so the expectation is that it won't actually contain Coke! On the other hand, they have sold lemon-flavored Coke before, so anything is still possible.