What has been behind Minus 196’s dominance?

March 14, 2024
By Cody Profaca

More than just becoming a benchmark both for fruit-based RTDs and for the overarching light RTD category, Minus 196 was largely responsible for catalysing the recent explosion explosion of Japanese premixes onto the Australian market, becoming a quintessential summer product seemingly overnight. 

Its secret? A mix of quality product, innovative technology, strong marketing and perfect timing. However, the Minus 196 story doesn’t end with its strong leap into the market. Since launching, Minus 196 has continued to develop and broaden, leaving its competition to play catch up. Its latest development is the release of its third flavour, the Minus 196 Double Peach. 

Following in the footpath of Minus 196 Double Lemon was Double Grape, which became the most successful product by value to be added to the Australian RTD category in all of 2022. Suntory has further capitalised on this momentum by adding to the Minus 196 lineup, this time with a peach flavoured premix. 

Released to Australia this March, Minus 196 Double Peach is based on the peach flavoured Strong Zero, the brand’s third most popular flavour. Hence, the Double Peach release to the Australian market has been highly anticipated.

“Minus 196 delivered a step change for the light RTD category with the launch of Double Lemon in 2021 and we are excited to continue to build this brand and deliver another authentic and unmistakably Japanese flavour to this market with Double Peach,” said Trent Chapman, Chief Marketing Officer, Beam Suntory.

Minus 196 Double Peach uses the same Freeze Crush Infusion Technology as its predecessors. This means that, like Double Lemon, the latest addition to the lineup has a bold fresh peach flavour and a light and refreshing structure, all supported by a gentle fizz.

The Freeze Crush Infusion Technology, a method patented by Suntory, involves 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. In addition to being an effective method of capturing fresh fruit flavour, Freeze Crush Infusion Technology has also served as an invaluable marketing tool. 

Another factor that helped ensure its success was its solid starting foundations. Introduced to the Australian market in June of 2021, Minus 196 was directly based upon Strong Zero, Suntory’s number one premix brand in Japan. Since launch, it has become Australia’s second-largest light RTD brand and is in the top eight RTD brands overall. In 2023, it was the fastest growing out of that top eight, increasing 26% compared to the year prior. This 26% growth was more than four times the overall RTD category growth of 6%. 

“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 Chapman.

“Since its launch, Suntory -196 has had a huge impact on the Ready to Drink category; we have long known that Aussies have loved the Strong Zero products they’ve experienced in Japan and it’s great to see the-196 brand being just as well received.”

Heading into 2024 and onwards, Suntory has indicated that it has further plans to repeat its ‘Extreme Vending Machine’ activation at various events nationwide, following on from its success at SXSW Sydney and at the Adelaide Fringe Festival. It has also told customers to keep an eye out for various new partnerships, flavours and formats arriving soon.

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