Genki Forest launches sugar-free cola flavored drink

Chinese beverage giant Genki Forest is planning to launch a sugar-free cola-flavored drink, according to a source close to the firm quoted by 36Kr July 21. The new drink has successfully passed the latest internal tests, and will go on sale from the beginning of August, with an anticipated arrival planned for e-commerce platforms.

The business line was led by co-founder Lu Jiao, who set up an independent new product development team under the code name “YYDS”. “YYDS” is a Chinese buzzword meaning “eternal god”. It is used to describe something or someone you love and nothing can beat it.

The move signals that the beverage newcomer will be competing against top product lines from Coca-Cola and Pepsi. The latter two giants have long held most of the global carbon dioxide market, entering the Chinese market in 1979 and 1981, respectively.

Compared to the sugar-free cola series of Coca-Cola and Pepsi, Yuanqi Forest’s new sugar-free cola drinks have two major R&D priorities. One is to “subtract” ingredients and eliminate food preservatives such as sodium benzoate and potassium sorbate. Second, it uses extracted natural raw materials instead of chemical additives. For example, it uses natural caffeine and erythrocyte sugar alcohol instead of aspartame, acesulfame and other artificial sweeteners.

Genki Forest has long considered entering this market. 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 R&D personnel at some point. A major problem was how to remove chemical additives without affecting taste and texture.

Producing an in-house sterile carbonic acid production line is the key to this product. In October last year, Yuanqi 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.

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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” mentality for this product, and founder Tang Binsen even said internally that it is “a product with a high probability of failure”.

This new cola flavored drink is expected to be sold in e-commerce flagship stores, and follow-up planning will be done based on market reflection. Currently, there is no clear plan for offline distribution channels.

Rachel J. Bradford