For the first time in 130 years, Coca-Cola plans to sell a beverage containing alcohol.
The soft drink company is experimenting with Chi-Hi, a type of low-alcohol, carbonated beverage popular in Japan. It consists of flavored carbonated water and distilled shochu alcohol. Jorge Garduño, president of Coca-Cola Japan, disclosed the plans during a question and answer session on the company's website.
"This is a canned drink that includes alcohol," Garduño said. "Traditionally, it is made with a distilled beverage called shōchū and sparkling water, plus some flavoring. 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."
The new product is highly unlikely to show up on store shelves in the U.S., or most other countries. Japan, apparently, is a unique situation. Garduño says it is not uncommon in Japan for soft drinks and alcoholic beverages to appear side-by-side in stores.
"It makes sense to give this a try in our market," he said. "But I don’t think people around the world should expect to see this kind of thing from Coca-Cola."
Coke was invented in the late 19th century by a Civil War veteran and was first produced in a drug store and used for medicinal purposes. It's initial popularity stemmed from the belief at the time that carbonated water was a health benefit. Its inventors made a number of health claims for the product, including that it could cure many diseases.
Coke has ventured into other areas of beverage production in recent years. It now makes or markets DaSani water; Powerade, a drink for athletes; Fairlife milk; Kia-Ora, a fruit-based soft drink; Nestea, an iced tea beverage; and Hi-C fruit drinks.