Canned Coffee Has Been Around Longer Than You Might Expect

Born out of convenience, canned coffee is a staple of vending machines in Japan. Although Japan may be more often associated with tea than coffee, the latter has been a part of the Japanese lifestyle for decades with there being more than 10,000 coffee shops in Tokyo during the 1930s, per Thrillest

The Japanese are known for working long hours, which can take a lot of energy to power through. About 25% of Japanese employers require more than 80 hours of overtime per month from their workers, which are often unpaid, CNBC reported in 2018 citing a 2016 government survey. To help fuel their long days, Japanese workers drink coffee. According to Statista, caffeine consumption in Japan has increased from 400 million tons at the start of the 21st century to 431 million tons in 2020. 

A convenient way to drink coffee for the busy worker is in the form canned coffee found in one of the country's many vending machines. Canned coffee has been big business in the land of the Rising Sun, with its estimated worth being $6.7 billion in 2013, according to the Japan Times.

The options include Boss Coffee by Suntory, Tully's Coffee, Coca-Cola's Georgia brand, and the oldest, UCC Ueshima Coffee Co. Ltd.

Guinness-record holder

As the oldest ready-to-drink canned coffee, UCC Milk Coffee has been awarded a Guinness World Records title. For 53 years, UCC Ueshima Coffee Company, the produce of UCC Milk Coffee, has been helping to keep Japan awake, per Wide Open Eats

The idea for canned coffee was thought of when founder Tadao Ueshima was drinking a cup of coffee at the train station when the signal was given for it to depart earlier than expected, causing him to waste most of his coffee, according to Guinness World Records. He decided there had to be a better way to drink coffee. So, he invented canned coffee that was portable and could be kept at room temperature. In its 53-year history, UCC Ueshima Coffee Company has sold more than 15 billion cans, per Guinness World Records.

A big advantage of canned coffee in a country where people are very busy is its accessibility, according to the Thrillest, because it's easy to drink and is sold at convenience stores and in vending machines.  Since the launch of UCC Ueshima Coffee Company, there have been many imitators. The significant demand for canned coffee in Japan has resulted in Coca-Cola launching its Georgia line, while Suntory, the owner of Jim Beam and Maker's Mark, created BOSS Coffee in 1992. UCC Ueshima Coffee has also added flavors through the years, including Cold Brew, Black Coffee, and Milk Coffee.

With no signs of the Japanese workforce slowing down, canned coffee will continue to fuel it.