Coca-Cola India forays into the alcohol segment

Coca-Cola India has made its first move into the alcohol segment, starting with Lemon-Dou, its global alcoholic ready-to-drink beverage, which the company has started to pilot test in Goa and parts of Maharashtra.

A Coca-Cola India spokesperson confirmed to ET that the firm is pilot testing Lemon-Dou from its global portfolio in a few states in India. Lemon-Dou is a mix of shochu, a distilled liquor similar to brandy and vodka, and lime.

“The preparation and distribution of these beverages is done separately in dedicated and independent facilities in India, which are different from the facilities that prepare and distribute its non-alcoholic, ready-to-drink (NARTD) beverages,” the Coca-Cola India spokesperson said in an email.

First launched in Japan in 2018
Lemon-Dou is known as chuhai, an alcoholic cocktail with origins in Japan. It has been priced at Rs 230 for a 250 ml can in the test launch phase.

“Alcohol is a very big category and we have on purpose decided to experiment,” Coca-Cola global marketing chief Manolo Arroyo told ET in a recent interview. “We’re very clear what kind of beverages consumers are demanding. I call it fuel for the body and the mind.”

Lemon-Dou was Coca-Cola’s first ready-to-drink alcohol beverage, which it launched in Japan in 2018, to take forward its positioning as a “total beverages company”.Coca-Cola, India’s largest soft drinks company, sells Coke, Sprite, Thums Up, Fanta and Limca fizzy drinks, Maaza and Minute Maid juices, Kinley water, Honest tea and coffee brands Georgia and Costa Coffee. The company’s foray into alcoholic drinks comes three decades after it re-entered India.Different dynamics
“In beverages beyond soft drinks, there’s a dynamic that is very interesting, which is an age of entering categories and retaining consumption of that category,” Arroyo had said during the interview. “Different beverages, depending on who is drinking, who is making the decision to drink, and who is making the decision to buy, have different dynamics,” he added.

However, with large-scale alcohol being a complex distribution and manufacturing business in India, Coca-Cola will seed the market only gradually, said executives with knowledge of the company’s plans. Besides, spirits is a highly regulated and heavily taxed sector in India, with pricing controlled by individual states.

Besides Japan and now India, Lemon-Dou is available in select countries, such as China and the Philippines.

Other products
In October, Coca-Cola and global spirits maker Pernod Ricard announced a global collaboration to launch Absolut vodka and Sprite as a ready-to-drink pre-mixed cocktail in 2024, starting with the UK, Netherlands, Spain and Germany. Absolut & Sprite, as the brand will be called, will be made with Pernod’s Absolut premium vodka and Coca-Cola’s lemon-lime soft drink Sprite and Sprite Zero Sugar.

Coca-Cola’s other forays in alcohol in select global markets include seltzers such as Topo Chico Hard Seltzer, pre-mixed cocktails such as Schweppes and Jack Daniel’s & Coca-Cola.

The US beverages giant said it’s strategically expanding in the alcohol ready-to-drink space.

“We take the responsibilities that come with our products in the alcohol ready-to-drink space very seriously as we grow our brands in a responsible and sustainable way,” the company said on its website.


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