Is this the RTD that bars will serve?

Beam Suntory’s latest foray into the ready-to-drink (RTD) category is heavily influenced by the Japanese highball culture and aims to bring refreshment and innovation to Australia.

It’s also a drink the Beam Suntory Director of Innovation, Kay Oh, is hopeful will be able to break some of the pre-conceptions about RTDs in the on-premise.

“We are speaking to a lot of on-premise customers about this and they are being very responsive to Koyomi,” Oh told Bars and Clubs.

“We’ve talked about doing takeovers in bars and we are also talking about going into a number of venues to be able to do some tasting activities and using some of the branding as well.

“One of the downsides for RTD is that it can be considered to be very off-premise and even unsophisticated, one of our missions was to break some of those conventions and myths with Koyomi.”

The Koyomi Highball comes in three flavours and was driven by Oh, who said after six years away she returned to Australia to see more Japanese influence in the high street and thought this would bring an opportunity for a highball-style drink.

“When I left Australia six years ago, every restaurant on a street corner was a Thai restaurant. Now, it’s Japanese restaurants high-end, middle-end and sushi train, and I thought ‘that is interesting’.

“Then I thought about what is typically our core space and what consumers say they want from their drinks. An important factor is having something super-refreshing and that immediately took me back to my days in Japan and the drink that is big there is called Chuhai.

“Chuhai is a shortened version of a Shochu Highball and Chuhai in a can is quite a large portion of our core industry in Japan.

“I thought it would be great if we could provide a drinking experience of Japan in a refreshing highball format and in popular Japanese flavours. It had to be with Scochu and it had to be unique both inside and outside. So putting all that together is essentially the thought behind Koyomi.”

That concept of being unique on the outside is reflected in the eye-catching can designs, which will help Koyomi to stand out on shelves and Oh told Bars and Clubs there is “a lot of Japanese-ness hidden in the can designs”.

She added: “I had a very firm view about what I wanted to be in the can designs and for each one the lead flavour is hidden within the design.”

The three flavours are Blood Orange and Bitters, Mandarin and Grapefruit and Yuzu and Lime. As Oh explained the thinking behind the flavours was very important and they were chosen to reflect the direct Japanese translation of Koyomi, which means calendar.

“But,” Oh adds, “as with any Japanese word, there are a lot of hidden meanings, indirect meanings, or insinuated meanings, and Koyomi to me is super-Japanese in a way that you have a really deep connection to flow of time. Flow of time, meaning seasons, mood and colours.

“In Japan there are four clear seasons, that is one thing, but the second thing is that they say ‘this is the cherry blossom season’ or ‘this is the persimmon season’. For me that is Koyomi.

“So what I wanted to do was to express that deep connection and flow of time, through different flavours. The white can, which is Yuzu and Lime is more crisp and refreshing. For me, that is an expression of a much warmer time.

“Then you’ve got mandarin, and Japanese love mandarin and that tends to become a little bit colder but without being too cold and you’ve got a little bit of a warmer citrus note.

“Then when I was thinking about cold, I wanted something a little bit warmer, sweeter, but without being too sickly and to me that is Blood Orange. It was about those kinds of conceptual elements to express the flow of time, which is basically the name of the brand.”

Oh said that while there is work to do on educating Australian consumers on Shochu and its drinking occasions, because of the range of flavours and its refreshing nature Koyomi is a versatile drink that can be consumed on different occasions.

“Chuhai in Japan is mostly drunk with meals, so there is obviously the food occasion, but you can also use it as a cocktail. I recognise that not a lot of Australian people will know what Shochu is, so it is certainly our mission to educate and help consumers understand what it is all about.”

The Koyomi Highball will come in 250ml cans, each of 4.2 per cent ABV and will be available from August 2019.

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