It had previously watched on as Coke launched such goodies as a Sakura Cherry Blossom edition for the spring with an exclusive pink floral design in aluminium bottles, and a unique peach-flavoured variety in February.
The carbonated market in Japan has been stagnant for several years, in part due to the country’s sluggish economy and growing health awareness among consumers. This has prompted a swathe of limited editions.
Coke has come up with a number of other limited flavour editions. Last year it launched Coca-Cola Plus, its first-ever drink approved as a registered functional beverage by regulators, which contains indigestible dextrin to prevent fat absorption.
No stranger to innovation, Pepsi has had its own history of releasing wild flavours. These include a pink Halloween edition last October, with a “mystery” ingredient that tasted like bubblegum, and extra-caffeinated Pepsi Strong Shot which has an ultra-carbonated blast — it was so gassy that a new bottle had to be designed to take the pressure.
All the while this year, however, it has been gearing up for a major launch.
J-Cola, which comes in a bottle that is immediately recognisable as Pepsi, albeit with a Japan-inspired label that is a reference to Hokusai’s iconic ukiyoe print The Great Wave off Kanagawa, is fused with Japanese spice and citrus.
According to Suntory, the Japanese producers of Pepsi, the new J-Cola is part of their “Japan & Joy Cola” concept, a new strategic brand designed to appeal to local tastes, with 100 cola-loving customers polled during its development. The result is described as a deeper Pepsi with a refreshing aftertaste.
According to the results of the survey, rich flavours and a crisp aftertaste are two of the most important things for the country’s most ardent cola users.
When it goes on sale across Japan in April, there will also be a Zero version without calories, and a Midnight edition with a lingering cassis taste, based on what half of all surveyed Japanese customers said they most wanted from a drink late at night. It is a perfect partner to help you enjoy “a lingering evening scene,” according to Suntory.
Pepsi currently trails Coca-Cola in Japan with the second highest market share — the country is Coke’s second-biggest market after America with more than US$10bn in sales. In terms of drinks groups, Suntory trails its rival with a market share of 17.1%, behind Coca Cola on 22.4%.