'Healthy' colas take off in Japan

Thursday, 27 February, 2014

Japan, home of canned bread, square watermelons and jellyfish ice-cream, recently went one step further to create - wait for it - healthy cola.

In 2012, Kirin Beverage Co launched Mets Cola, the first ever carbonated beverage to win approval from the Consumer Affairs Agency as a ‘tokuho’ drink - a beverage with specific health benefits. The drink’s claim to fame is that it contains indigestible dextrin, which reportedly restricts the absorption of fat from consumed food.

Needless to say, the drink is big in Japan.

The product is part of an overall shift in Japanese foods to healthier products as media attention continues to focus on the growing medical costs of an ageing society. A number of producers have developed tokuho cola, including PepsiCo, which released the dextrin-containing product Pepsi Special despite much scepticism from the West.

“What’s really exciting about Mets Cola is that it joins a growing number of functional carbonates, targeted to adult consumers, which are helping to shape new segmentation and give new value to consumers,” said Erica Shaw, beverage analyst with Canadean.

According to Canadean, soft drink sales continue to grow in Japan despite intense price competition among producers and a prolonged economic depression.

In the difficult economic climate, beverage producers have worked to improve the image of carbonated drinks to boost sales, developing various sugar-free and zero-calorie offerings. Developing drinks with health benefits takes this one step further.

“Diet-related tokuho drinks were already available on the market, but only in the iced tea drinks category,” said Shaw. “With Mets Cola, such an unexpected combination of a carbonated beverage and tokuho approval is groundbreaking and expected to yield further products in coming years.”

Canadean expects the tokuho market to expand in Japan, as tokuho beverages command higher prices and are clearly distinguishable to health-conscious consumers.

This information is based on findings from the Canadean report ‘Japan Soft Drinks Market Insights 2013’.

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