Coca-Cola
Cases holding bottles of Coca-Cola are seen on the production line at their bottling plant in Clamart near Paris (file photo) Jacky Naegelen/Reuters

Coca Cola has announced plans to launch an alcoholic drink for the first time in its history.

The company says it is developing an experimental variation of the Japanese "Chu-Hi" alcopop, a market which has seen rapid growth in recent years. The low-alcohol beverage is made from sparkling carbonated water and mixed with shōchūm - a rice-based spirit - and sweetener such as lemon or lime.

A senior Coca-Cola executive called the beverage "unique in our history" and marks the first time in 130 years the company has made a foray into the alcoholic drinks market.

Jorge Garduño, Coca-Cola's Japan president, said: "This is a canned drink that includes alcohol; traditionally, it is made with a distilled beverage called shochu and sparkling water, plus some flavouring. 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.

"Coca-Cola has always focused entirely on non-alcoholic beverages, and this is a modest experiment for a specific slice of our market.

"The Chu-Hi category is found almost exclusively in Japan. Globally, it's not uncommon for non-alcoholic beverages to be sold in the same system as alcoholic beverages. It makes sense to give this a try in our market."

Those hoping to try it in the UK may be disappointed to learn the drink will be sold in Japan only, owing to the country's "unique and special" market. The company has not yet set out a timetable for the roll-out of its Chu-Hi brand.

Coca-Cola has been struggling with declining sales in recent years. Sales dropped 20% in 2017, as consumers shun sugary drinks for healthier alternatives, such as coconut water and sparkling water.