Chinese beverage giant Genki Forest plans to launch a sugar-free cola-flavored drink, according to a source close to the firm quoted by 36Kr on July 21. The new drink has passed final internal tests, and will be put on sale as early as the beginning of August, with advanced arrival planned for e-commerce platforms.
The business line was led by co-founder Lu Jiao, setting up an independent new product development team codenamed “YYDS.” “YYDS” is a Chinese internet buzzword meaning “eternal god”. It is used to describe something or someone you love and nothing can beat it.
This move marks that the beverage newcomer will compete with top product lines of Coca-Cola and Pepsi. The two latter giants have long held most of the world’s carbonated market share, entering the Chinese market in 1979 and 1981, respectively.
Compared with the sugar-free cola series of Coca-Cola and Pepsi, Genki Forest’s new sugar-free cola drinks have two major R&D priorities. One is to “subtract” ingredients and remove food preservatives such as sodium benzoate and potassium sorbate. Second, it uses natural extracted raw materials instead of chemical additives. For instance, it uses natural caffeine, and erythrocytic sugar alcohol instead of aspartame, acesulfame and other artificial sugar sweeteners.
Genki Forest has been planning to enter this market for a long time. According to the aforementioned insider, internally, the project was set up as early as 2019 for R&D. However, early progress was not smooth, and there were changes in the R&D staff at one time. One major problem was how to remove chemical additives without affecting the taste and texture.
The production of an in-house sterile carbonic acid production line is the key to this product. In October last year, Genki Forest announced that chemical preservatives such as sodium benzoate and potassium sorbate would no longer be added to its carbonated products. Before them, only Nongfu Spring and Huiyuan had aseptic filling production lines in China.
Genki Forest doesn’t seem to have high expectations for this product. According to another person familiar with the matter, Genki Forest has a “try it out” mentality for this product, and founder Tang Binsen has even stated internally that it is “a product with a high probability of failure.”
This new cola-flavored drink is expected to be sold on e-commerce flagship stores, and follow-up planning will be made according to market reflection. At present, there is no clear plan for offline distribution channels.