Coca-Cola and illy coffee have recently launched a new ready-to-drink coffee brand, illy issimo, in Japan.

This new joint venture leverages illy’s expertise in the field of espresso brewing while taking advantage of the distribution capabilities of the largest beverage company in the world.

Though it was released internationally in the spring of 2008, illy issimo just went on sale in Tokyo in June. Weekender’s Jon Chai talks with Coca Cola’s assistant manager of consumer marketing, Meshal Yoshida, to find out more.

Please tell us more about illy issimo.

Illy is a prestigious espresso brand loved by not only Italians but also top chefs and baristas all over the world for more than 75 years. ‘Issimo’ means ‘the best of the best’ in Italian, and with illy issimo, customers can now enjoy authentic, premium Italian espresso anytime, anywhere. There are two products to cater to different tastes: Latte Macchiato and Caffé.

How did you come up with the design?

This particular product is targeted toward females and males in their 20s and 30s, and considering that, we came up with this particular design called the bottle-can. When you open a normal can you need to finish it off, but with this you can reseal it, so from an accessibility and portability standpoint it’s very handy. The other thing is that the can opening is widemouthed, and since coffee is not only about the taste, but all five senses, when you’re drinking you can really smell the aroma of the coffee. Also from a strictly female perspective, when you’re opening cans you need to worry about your nails, but with the bottle-can you don’t have to worry about your nails being cut or broken.

The drink was launched in 2008 in other countries, and has now come to Japan. Can you tell us more about this?

The roots of the illy brand are in Italy, so the idea was to first build the product around the European markets. In April of 2008 the initial launch was made in ten markets in Europe. From then they gradually created buzz and began launching in different places. This year the product was launched in New York and Los Angeles, Italy, and Korea. Japan is a big coffee market, so by the time the product came to the Tokyo area on June 22, there already was a certain amount of buzz. This is the 17th market for illy issimo, and we have launched both the Latte Macchiato and the Caffé products simultaneously.

How is illy issimo going to be marketed in a beverage market as saturated as Japan’s?

One challenge with this particular product is building the awareness of the brand. People who already know about illy will know that it is a premium brand, but for the people that don’t know, we need to build up the awareness of the brand and build up its ‘premiumness.’ So for now we’ve launched this brand only in the premium supermarkets in order to keep the brand image equivalent to the consumers that frequent those high-end markets. We’re not going to put this product out in ordinary places just yet. We wanted to create a kind of brand image, and as we do that the consumers will then know that this is a premium brand.

How has the reception of the drink been outside of Japan?

So far so good. In the supermarkets we’ve done in-store sampling to draw attention to the product and we’ve also placed it in various stores and premium lounges in Haneda Airport, and the consumption rate of the drink has been incredible. People have been taking it before it can even be refrigerated.

What future plans do you have for the marketing and distribution of this product?

Currently illy issimo is only available in the premium supermarkets, and since the premium market is a very limited market, we have begun to place our product in vending machines of select offices, again to build the brand image. We have also started to place the product in select convenience stores, and we plan to gradually expand the presence of the brand, both in terms of the number of outlets as well as in terms of area.

External Link:
Illy Issimo, Japan