First ever alcoholic Coke to hit shelves

Slim pickings: Diet Coke has launched new flavours for millennials, including “Feisty Cherry”.

Is Coca-Cola on its way out? The company is constantly launching new products, including a Japanese alcopop. But its flagship drink, Coke, is struggling as the soda market shrinks.

People have been drinking Coca-Cola for 132 years. But nobody has got drunk on the stuff — until now.

The soda titan has announced its first ever alcoholic beverage. The catch: it will only launch in Japan. The drink will be a Chu-Hi, a variety of alcopop that is hugely popular in the country. For now, that is all we know.

The Chu-Hi is only one item in Coca-Cola’s vast, ever-shifting product range. The company launched around 500 new products in 2017 alone. Most of these are not branded as, or even flavoured with, Coke. They include lemonades, teas, coffees and bottled water.

A key reason behind Coca-Cola’s diversification is that Coke itself, like fizzy drinks in general, is not selling like it used to. Coke took off in an age when consumers had less choice, advertising was simpler, and people paid less attention to their diet. For much of the 20th century, it was arguably the world’s biggest brand.

All that has changed. Health campaigns in particular are denting the soda market. Everyone from Michelle Obama to Cancer Research is raising awareness of obesity. Workplaces and school cafeterias are banning fizzy drinks. In the UK, a sugar tax is about to kick in; Coca-Cola has said that it will not change its recipe, but will raise its prices to pay for the tax.

Coca-Cola’s brand valuation is slipping. According to one expert’s research, the average age of a Coke drinker has reached 56, as young people switch to healthier alternatives (and energy drinks). Bottled water is now outselling Coke in the UK, and all fizzy drinks put together in the US.

The company is aware of this. It has just launched a sassy ad campaign for Diet Coke targeted at millennials (some of whom declared it “cringe”). In recent years, it has branched out into more wholesome drinks. Some, like Fuze Tea, have been a hit. Others — Coke Life, say — did not last long.

Meanwhile, Coca-Cola continues to innovate. Its aim, according to its boss, is to become a “total beverage company”. Can it survive?

Losing its fizz

Doubtful, say some. Coca-Cola may find success with other products, but Coke itself — the company’s lifeblood — is slowly dying. This is good news for everyone bar Coca-Cola: it shows that we have more choice, and more respect for our bodies, than ever before. Why pour that garbage down your throat when you could have an organic smoothie?

Easy, reply others: because it’s delicious. People never drank Coke for its health-giving properties. They loved it, like McDonald’s, because it made them feel good. The company is still so rich, and its brand so strong, that it will find a way to survive in a ever-crowded market. Admit it: you wouldn’t mind having one now.

You Decide

  1. Does the world need Coke?
  2. Is the sugar tax a good idea?

Activities

  1. Create an infographic that displays the nutritional properties contained in a can of Coke.
  2. Coca-Cola has asked you to come up with an advert that will appeal to your generation. Form groups of four, and create the concept for a poster or video.

Some People Say...

“Taste the feeling.”

Coca-Cola’s motto

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
“Chu-Hi” is an abbreviation of “shochu highball”. Shochu is a Japanese liquor that is usually made from potato or rice, and a highball is a drink consisting of a spirit and mixer. The Coca-Cola Chu-Hi is therefore likely to be a mixture of Coke and shochu, with roughly the alcohol content of beer. The Chu-Hi market is growing fast in Japan, where it appeals mostly to women.
What do we not know?
Whether the new drink will be hitting a shelf near you. As Coca-Cola points out, Japan is a highly innovative country, where consumers constantly demand new things. This is perhaps less true of other markets. What’s more: Chu-Hi drinks don’t really exist in other countries. That said, if it’s a big hit, the company may be tempted to release it elsewhere. Would that be a good thing?

Word Watch

132 years
Coca-Cola was invented in 1886 by Atlanta pharmacist John Pemberton. After being wounded in the US Civil War, Pemberton became hooked on morphine, and the drink was partly intended as a cure for his addiction.
Diversification
When a company breaks into a new market or industry in which it has no experience, it is said to “diversify”.
Selling like it used to
Sales of fizzy cola drinks, more than half of which is Coca-Cola, fell by 3.1% globally between 2012 and 2017.
Cancer Research
The charity’s campaign, which emphasised the link between obesity and cancer, drew a backlash from people who accused it of “fat-shaming”.
Recipe
A 330ml can of Coke contains 35g of sugar — more than the daily intake recommended by the World Health Organization.
Brand valuation
The power of a brand, measured in terms of its contribution (as opposed to that of, say, physical property) to the company’s business.
Energy drinks
These increasingly popular drinks contain very high levels of sugar and caffeine. Some major UK supermarkets recently stopped selling them to under-16s.

Subjects

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