Japan has always had some interesting innovations with their beverages, ranging from soda flavors such as cucumber, green tea, and Cheetos. At the root of it all, these quirky flavors (to Westerners) are an indication of how different a Japanese consumer’s taste preferences are. The latest innovation in Japan’s carbonated soft drink category? Hot Ginger Ale from Coca-Cola’s Canada Dry. As this new product is gearing up for introduction in late October, many questions are left unanswered. How is this can heated up? Will soda manufacturers in Japan develop other heated soda beverages? Will it make its way over to America?
While hot drinks are normally found in Japan, hot carbonated drinks are quite different. Carbonation is typically lost when a soda is heated up, but Coca-Cola has managed to maintain the beverage’s carbonation despite it being heated up. After four years of research & testing, their technology allows for the beverage to maintain carbonated when heated up without burning the hand. The Gizmag has a feature piece on Hot Can, one of the companies that has developed self-heating can technology (article link here). The can is multi-layered becomes heat-activated with the press of a button, some shaking, and about 20-30 seconds of wait time. The can’s layers separate the beverage from the heat activation layer, and will add a predetermined amount of heat upon activation. Therefore storage at room temperature is best – fridge-storage means the heating the beverage up won’t really make it that hot, while storing it in a already hot place will burn the hand. The can has a heat indicator to safeguard against burning the hand.
Given that Japanese drinks have explored many new frontiers on taste, packaging, and now temperature, it likely won’t be the last area where they try launching new products in. Apparently, Coca-Cola has already introduced self-heating coffees in Japan. This goes to show that other heated drinks may not be entirely uncommon. Should this Hot Ginger Ale product become successful, there is no limit to what other soft drinks will be introduced targeted for heated consumption. Kirin Japan is already slated to launch their own heated soft drink a couple of weeks after Hot Ginger Ale hits the market – titled Kirin No Awa: Hot Hojun Apple & Hop. Could Pepsi also be in the works to launch their own heated beverage soon as well?
So far, these heated soft drinks are primed for release in Japan and no other country. However, the technology is more important than the soft drink itself. While Westerners may find warm soft drinks hard to stomach, there may be other uses for this technology. Heated coffee and tea sounds very plausible to penetrate the North American beverage landscape, and heated sport drinks and energy drinks may not be all that weird either. And despite our perception of beverages being best served hot or cold, it’s innovations like these that really make you think about whether there is a different way to consume the beverage.