Apparently remembering Crystal Pepsi more fondly than the rest of us, several beverage companies are using Japan as a test market for a new trend of transparent beverages. They reason that sodas, beer, even coffee, may somehow be more palatable to consumers if you can see completely through them. Reports The Wall Street Journal, “Japanese beverage makers are increasingly producing products that look like water but taste like other drinks, betting that consumers want the taste of Coke or beer in a healthier-looking clear liquid.”
For example, Coca-Cola Co. Japan recently released “the zero-calorie, lemon-flavored Coca-Cola Clear,” eliminating the soda’s legendary caramel color. Beverage company Suntory offers a clear beverage meant to taste like tea with milk, as well as a non-alcoholic beer: “To make it, Suntory drained the color from its nonalcoholic beer, added lime flavoring and increased the carbonation.” There’s even a Clear Latte, released by Asahi, which The Japan Times describes as “perplexing… It captures the aftertaste of a regular latte but has the texture of water. It is at once vaguely sweet and bitter, in the worst way possible.” Nevertheless, says the WSJ, “Asahi sold 400,000 cases, with 24 bottles per case, in the three weeks after Clear Latte was introduced in May.”
There are a few philosophies apparently at play here. First, that people may assume (correctly or incorrectly—just ask Crystal Pepsi) that drinks are healthier without the addition of artificial coloring. The second is that transparent beverages also eliminate the shame factor for those who want to drink a clear (n.a.) beer at their desk at work. Same with those afraid of being shamed for their sugar- or artificial-coloring-laden sodas: Clear beverages just make it look like they’re drinking water, or seltzer water. Or hot water, in the case of the clear coffee drinker.
Japan is often an indicative test market, so could transparent beverages be heading toward our shores? Might be time to pull those leftover Zima cases out of storage.