Suntory’s Minus 196 launches in the UK following success in Australia

February 19, 2024
By Cody Profaca

Following its unparalleled success on the Australian market, Beam Suntory has announced it will be launching its Minus 196 brand in the United Kingdom this month. Initially, two flavours will be included in the release: Lemon and Grapefruit. 

“This launch marks a significant move for us into the ready to drink alcohol market and is part of a much bigger strategy for portfolio growth,” said Carol Robert, chief operating officer at Suntory Beverage & Food Great Britain & Ireland. 

“We’re very proud of our Japanese heritage and honoured to be launching one of Suntory’s iconic brands in our business for the first time.”

Since launching in Australia in June 2021, the Minus 196 brand has achieved tremendous success, including becoming the the second largest light RTD brand and being one of the top eight RTD brands overall. It was also the fastest growing out of that top eight, increasing 26% in 2023 compared to the year prior. This 26% growth is more than four times the overall RTD category growth over the same period. 

“Over the last two and a half years, the brand has become a pioneer within the category of light, fruit-flavoured RTDs in Australia, capturing the extreme Japanese spirit, and expanding our local Minus 196 fanbase,” said Trent Chapman, Marketing Director at Beam Suntory.

The Minus 196 product was originally based upon Strong Zero, Suntory’s best selling premix brand on the Japanese market. Following in the wake of the initially released Double Lemon flavour was Double Grape, which became the most successful product by value to be added to the Australian RTD category in all of 2022. 

According to the IWSR, the flourishing 7% CAGR of the RTD category in Australia between 2018 and 2022 was mostly due to growth in two contrasting categories: brightly-coloured, very sweet and low-ABV, and low-calorie, high-ABV, and light-and-refreshing.

“[RTD] is a sizable, mature category that is being reinvigorated by the refreshment and premiumisation trends,” said Sarah Campbell, APAC Head of Research, IWSR. 

“The RTD category is dominated by dark spirit-based drinks that have come under pressure in the face of moderation trends. This has led to the launch of more zero-sugar and soda-based variants, keeping interest in the category alive.”

Part of the success of Minus 196 can be attributed to its patented Freeze Crush Infusion Technology, which is both an ideal method of preserving fresh fruit flavour and an effective sales point. The process begins by flash-freezing whole fruit to a temperature of -196°C by submerging it in liquid nitrogen. Afterwards, the fruit is crushed into a powder and infused into the drink. This powder is then mixed with Shochu, vodka, and soda to create the final product. Whilst many of the competition have tried to replicate the Minus 196 product, none have proved as successful as Suntory on the Australian market. 

Suntory’s ‘Extreme Vending Machine’ activation has also proved effective for the brand. Heading into 2024 and onwards, Suntory has indicated that it already has further plans to roll out the ‘Extreme Vending Machine’ activation nationwide across various events. It has also told its customers to keep an eye out for various new partnerships, flavours and formats arriving soon. 

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