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Thursday, January 26, 2017

Coke Flavors In Japan - Not So Weird

Japan is known by pundits as the place where one can take something simple and make it a monster.

A plethora of flavors for Kit Kat chocolate bars, Fanta and Pepsi soft drinks are known to dazzle and confound those of us who wonder just how the heck "anyone would want to have that flavor?"

I have, in the past compiled complete lists for every single Kit Kat bar and Fanta drink found in Japan (to the best of my knowledge)... and so far, no one has called me on any omissions...

While I know that Pepsi has been active in creating some interesting taste combinations for the people of Japan, I hadn't even looked at what Coca-Cola might have done.

Whatever they had concocted, I bet it was crazy - because for some reason people think that green tea mixed with anything is tasty. But what do I know?

It turns out that Coca-Cola (Japan) Company, Limited hasn't fallen prey to the mass marketing of "limited edition" crazy flavors to build hysteria in the gotta catch'em all world of Japan.

First... some background.  

Japan is considered to be Coca-Cola's second-biggest market after the U.S.,with over ¥‎1-trillion (US$10 billion) in annual sales.

Yes, Japan still loves the Coke brand, but despite the 70+ versions of Fanta, the Japanese prefer the multi-facted Georgia canned coffee... which is actually quite good hot or cold (they have vending machines that provide those options).

But that's not it... they love their green tea (o-cha)... and drinks with garlic flavor and stuff you would think no one in their right mind would ever want as a nice refreshing beverage - but that's why we aren't working over in Japan in the beverage or snack food industry. 

Really... do any of you know what a durian fruit smells like? Would you want to drink kimchee? I'm sure it's tasty as a food, but to drink?  Just go eat some kimchee! No one craves kimchee that much that they need a liquid fix until they can hit a Korean restaurant! No one!

And didn't the Japanese hate everything Korean? I'm guessing not!

As the No. 1 softdrink manufacturer in Japan, Coca-Cola has some 850 different drinks - and that's NOT including discontinued brands. And, many of these 850 different drinks can only be found within the nearly one-million vending machines scattered across the country.

Coca-Cola (globally) has four brands that bring in over $1-billion a year in sales. Four of those brands come from Japan.

No... it's not Coke... or Coke Zero... rather it's:
  • Georgia Coffee (all versions);
  • Aquarius (similar to Gatorade - does any non-athlete need that much salt?);
  • I Lohas - another Japanese brand featuring the letter "L" that few Japanese can pronounce properly... still, FYI, Lohas means: Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability. I still don't see any grammatical significance of I Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability... but it does make me want to read an Anne Rice novel; 
  • Ayataka, a green tea beverage. I acknowledge that green tea is probably good for you... but it's Japan, man... if you aren't served at least seven cups of o-cha a day (at least!!!) you are probably unemployed. I think they get at least eight cups in a Japanese prison.... a number based on pure imagination. Actually, this brand is produced by Kanbayashi Shunsho Honten, a traditional Japanese o-cha manufacturer who were bought/partnered by Coca-Cola. Aya means "to incorporate tea leaf quality". Taka is symbolic of noble presence and precious tea. So... a very cool name.
I really don't understand the Japanese... when they aren't having cup after cup of o-cha at work or at home, they are now also having bottled green tea when they aren't sipping piping hot cups of the stuff. Really? Really.

Green tea beverages in Japan constitute a ¥777-billion (US$7.5-billion) packaged beverage market in Japan... and now many Japanese people prefer to get their green tea fix in a package they can take on the go - hence Coca-Cola's huge share of the market.

For a mere ¥140 (US$1.30) for a 500mL (one pint) bottle, Ayataka is a big deal.

Did you know that Kanbayashi Shunsho Honten is a 1,600-year-old Kyoto-based company? Yup... the grow tea... and create high-quality o-cha powder for tea pots... and now for on-the-go Japanese, Singaporians, Hong Kong Phooeys and the Taiwanese. I don't know what to call the people of Hong Kong. Sorry.

Tea products and the Georgia Coffee products... it's about 40 percent of Coca-Cola (Japan) Company, Limited's sales. Coke and Fanta they have a total of 20 percent, leaving the rest (40%) of its sales to come from other drinks.

Unlike Pepsi--and nothing against Pepsi, Coca-Cola does not put out weird/interesting flavor variations of Coke.

Not including Zero, Life, Diet, Caffiene-Free or the classic regular Coca-Cola, my perusal of the Internet came up with some very basic flavors:

Coca-Cola Green Tea

You know that old saying about how you can't get enough of a good thing? In my opinion, this flavor disproves that adage. I believe it debuted on June 8, 2009. According to the company, it contains tea antioxidants called catechins, leaves a slight green tea aftertaste and is mainly targeted at health-conscious women in their 20s and 30s. That explains why I never had one.

Coca-Cola Lemon
Coke and lemon... mmmm... now where's the dark rum?! It last appeared in Japan for a limited run in July of 2014.

Coca-Cola Vanilla

I don't think this one lasted long in Japan... but I've had it quite a few times in Toronto (a couple of months ago, in fact. It's delicious, but in my opinion, it's not something you would want time and time again. I can not find an exact launch date in Japan, but 2007 is my best guess. I am unsure if it is still available in Japan.

Coca-Cola Citra
Launched on May 29, 2006, it features(ed?) a lemon and lime mix. There was also a Coca-Cola Light Citra version in Japan, too.

Coca-Cola plus Vitamin C

Apparently, this Coke will give you 81 percent of your daily requirement of Vitamin C. And without any calories. Introduced in 2008, it was known in European markets as: Diet Coke Plus or Coca Cola Light Plus.

Coca-Cola Orange

This went on sale in Japan in November 2014. Unlike other European version that contained orange fruit from concentrate (1%), the Japanese version did not contain any actual fruit juice. Depending on its sugar content, I would buy this... at least one to try... but not if it was too heavy in sugars.

My love of Coke turned me diabetic - Type II... well actually, cookies, ice cream and chocolate bars, too. Sweet tooth... I thought I was invincible... no one is. Except Superman. And even he's allergic to kryptonite and magic. Me? I'm Batman.

On the Japan Coca-Cola website, however, I did find:

Coca-Cola Plus Ginger Extract Flavor
This was available as of January 23, 2017.Obviously Coca-Cola with a strong hint of ginger creating a "warm spiciness" according to Japan Today news media. Don't blame this on Japan, though. Australia saw it first in November of 2016.

Are there more? I'm betting yes... anyone out there have any Coke flavors they've seen  over the years?

Just eight Coke flavors in Japan? Seven shown above and the regular Coke?

Andrew Joseph


  1. Durian ... my Dad brought back Durian-flavored candy once. My son popped it in his mouth just as I yelled " Noooooo ... don't ... you don't know how baaaad ..." Too late ... the kid's eyes bugged out as he tried to keep the candy in his mouth while watching his Grandfather smile at him. (My Dad loves the stuff.) The poor boy ran to the bathroom gagging and retching.

    I think it has a pungent smell like the dog after he rolls on a dead animal along with an eye-watering onion-y tinge. But it supposingly has a lovely, buttery custard consistency -- not that I could ever open my mouth close enough to fruit! Blechh. {shiver}

    I have European friends who feel the same way about "American" peanut butter. And American friends who feel that way about Australian vegemite. Lol.

    1. I visited a niche fruit packaging facility last week and had the "pleasure" of smelling fresh durian. wet dog that rolled in something, indeed! You have an evil family! LOL! Vegemite is delish... but you are talking about a guy who loves Japanese natto... so apparently I would love durian et al. But... peanut butter? Really? That's interesting.