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.
Whiskey Richard is the founder of nomunication.jp, and has been saying he has lived in Japan for ten years for the past four years. He enjoys drinking basically anything except straight-up Campari.