Kirin has been increasing focus in beverage innovation outside of the beer category for some years, ranging from Japanese whiskey to teas and functional beverages containing its proprietary iMUSE probiotic.
One of its largest newer product ranges comprises RTD alcoholic beverages, where the firm has been experimenting with a range of unique flavours and concepts in order to test market interest and acceptance.
This has often been within a ‘sour’ flavour scope as this is associated with refreshment by Japanese consumers, as seen with the immensely popular highballs, such as its recent Hyakunen Kiwami Lemon Sour.
And in its most recent alcoholic RTD release, Kirin has lined up a sweet and spicy flavour twist for ginger ale.
“Kirin will be formally launching our Kirin Tokusei Ginger Ale Sour RTD beverages in Japan on September 12 2023,” Kirin Corporate Communications spokeswoman Katsura Muraoka told FoodNavigator-Asia.
“We already know that Japanese consumers really want to be able to enjoy a variety of tastes and flavours when it comes to RTD products, so this ginger ale flavour has been formulated to be refreshing and sweet [as opposed to a solely sour focus], in addition to going well with local meals.
“This RTD beverage has been made with sake and comes in 9% ABV, with enough carbonation and bubbles to appeal to consumers looking for that drinking experience.”
This new launch will be available across Japan in either 350ml or 500ml canned formats come September 12.
Kirin will also be simultaneously ‘relaunching’ three of its sugar-free tea products in accordance with current trends, having made changes to both packaging design as well as product taste and mouthfeel.
“We have seen the market for sugar-free beverages grow continuously over the past few years due to heightened health awareness in Japan, greatly driving the demand for sugar-free teas including black tea and hojicha (roasted green tea),” she added.
“Kirin has our own lines of these products, and one range in particular, the Kirin Gogo-no-Kocha Oishii No Sugar range has seen sales volumes increase about 10% year-on-year from January to July this year.
“To build on this momentum and based on consumer feedback, we have decided to relaunch this range with renewed improvements made to these, such as a stronger aroma and aftertaste of the tea.”
The products that are part of this campaign are the Kirin Gogo-no-Kocha Oishii Unsweetened and the Kirin Gogo-no-Kocha Oishii Unsweetened Fragrant Lemon teas, as well as the more recently launched Kirin Gogo-no-Kocha Oishii Sugar-Free Milk Tea.
Both Kirin Tokusei Ginger Ale Sour and the sugar-free tea products will only be available in the local Japanese market for now, until further notice.
Sour for Australia
In contrast to the exploration beyond sour flavours in Japan, the Kirin business in one of its major overseas markets Australia has seen more of sour-flavoured products enter its portfolio with the launch of the Kirin Hyoketsu Lemon RTD alcoholic beverage in August 2023.
Kirin Group Oceania operates its alcoholic beverage business in the region as Lion, and the firm believes that the way to go in this market is with a low-sugar, health-aware product/
“The Hyoketsu brand specialises in a fresh, refreshing taste, and with this lemon RTD beverage we have developed it to contain less than 0.3g of sugar and low caloric content (116kcal) in order to meet the growing needs of health-conscious consumers in Australia,” Muraoka said.
The new launch has 6% ABV and Lion hopes to capitalise on the expected growth of RTD alcohol in the region over the few years, which it predicts will increase by some 4% between 2023 to 2026.