Soju’s Changing DNA

Soju’s Changing DNA

The petite green bottle containing clear liquid, can be none other than the nation’s alcohol, soju. The distinctive scent and flavour is what has shaped Korean drinking culture, but now it could be all about to change.

Fruit flavoured soju have had sensational popularity since their launch last year. The added fruit liquor takes away the bitter aftertaste, and replaces it with a sweet and rich fruit flavour. The alcohol is now much easier to drink and have become a popular alternative to cocktails.


Currently the most popular fruit soju.

Brands have already included many more flavours to their range. Soonhari’s ‘Like the First Time’ (순하리 처음처럼) have citron, apple and soda flavours, while ‘Good Day’ (좋은 데이) has a line of blueberry, pomegranate, citron, grapefruit and peach. Many bars would serve cocktails with the alcohol blended with fruit, but now these handy bottles the sweet flavour can be enjoyed anywhere.

Even Korean rice wine ‘makgeolli’ (막걸리) is eager to jump in on the trend. The makgeolli manufacturer Kooksoondang (국순당) has released banana, peach, and citron flavoured rice wine. All of them have an extremely strong fruit flavour and creamy texture. They have already begun intense marketing so that they can get shift the public’s attention to rice wine.


Fruit rice wine and slushy soju.

Now the drink’s industry is seeking a revival this summer. The fruit flavoured alcohol market is clearly expanding and diversifying, and more flavours are predicted. They are even being packaged in frozen form, so that the soju can be enjoyed like a slushy.

The trend of 2016 is predicted to be carbonated alcohols. The drinks have a fruity taste like the fruit soju’s, but they are mixed with soda to dilute any bitter aftertaste. These are not as alcoholic as beer, and can be likened to Pimms, Smirnoff ice or fruit ciders. The success of ‘bokbadeun brother’ soda or ‘lucky brother’ soda (복받은 부라더) fired up the trend. The light and sweet flavour became popular as it suited the spring/ summer season.

It wasn’t long before many brands tried their hand at fruity fizzy soju with ‘Tropical Tok Soda’ (트로피칼 톡 소다) and ‘Plum wine soda’ (설중매 매실소다), but it was the beer company Hite, who hit the jackpot with ‘iseul toktok’ or ‘dewdrop tok tok’ (이슬 톡톡). ‘Iseul toktok’ became an SNS hit, and soon people were raving about this peach alcoholic beer soda all over social media. It only has 3% alcohol and its baby pink design and peach flavour makes it appear more like a fruit juice than beer.


2016 trend: fizzy fruity alcohol.

The reason why these drinks are becoming more popular now is because the summer season is perfect for social gathering and light beverages. Although the fruit alcohols are targeted at women in 20s and 30s, now they are popular with everyone due to their refreshing taste. Many are predicting fizzy alcoholic drinks to be a summer hit, as consumers who have had good experience with the fruit soju’s are most likely to try the carbonated version.

The changing taste of the public will most likely have a knock on effect on bars and restaurants. People will order less expensive fruit cocktails and will probably order less side dishes/’anju’, because it will not be as essential to wash away the strong soju flavour. These fruity and soda like drinks will be easier to consume than heavier drinks, so people are more likely to consume more. So far, alcohol has been changing to appeal to a wider market, and maybe soju will mutate again into an exciting new form.

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