The last major food that promised to cut weight by inhibiting digestion of fat after ingesting it was potato chips that contained Olestra. And we know what happened with that.
Now, Japan's Kirin Holdings is selling a beverage called Kirin Mets Cola that claims to reduce fat absorption by the body if it's consumed with a meal. Launched in Japan in April in 480ml bottles, Mets Cola became the first cola to receive clearance under Japan's strict new food-regulatory regime, according to BeverageDaily.com.
While it has nothing to do with the New York Mets or baseball, it certainly has a pitch as a "fat busting health drink" for men. No surprise, the cola drink is a runaway hit in Japan.
Now Kirin is ramping up production and sales targets for the drink from an initial one million cases a year and already it's apologizing for shortages.
Part of the success for the Japan launch was that it was targeted at men over 30, and used a smart bit of cross-branding to reach that target demo: Joe Yabuki, an anime icon, who was "hired" as the Kirin Mets Cola spokesperson.
In one ad, as the Crunchy Roll blog notes, "coach Danpei looks on in dismay as Joe eats pizza and hamburgers, but, Joe assures his trainer that the diet is alright, because he's drinking the fat blocking Kirin Mets Cola."
The beverage apparently includes an indigestible dextrin ingredients that cuts fat absorption. It also includes no sugar, though it isn't clear what the product is sweetened with.
If Mets catches on over the long term and outside Japan — although it's doubtful it would fly with America's truth-in-advertising watchdogs at the FTC) it could become an effective dietary tool for those who want to have their cake and eat it too. Of course, Kirin will hope to avoid the fate of Olestra.
Olestra, you may recall, was a P&G-developed ingredient that substituted for fat in some products beginning in 1996, including a new sub-brand, WOW potato chips by Frito-Lay.
Sales spiked and then slowed dramatically after consumers reported digestive symptoms after eating foods containing Olestra. In 2000, the FDA forced P&G and snack brands to put a warning label on: "This product contains Olestra. Olestra may cause abdominal cramping and loose stools." Exit Olestra.
Although another beverage that promises the more you drink the more you lose, metabolism-boosting Celsius, is still around.
There's no word on what Kirin will do if Japanese and other consumers forego Kirin Mets Cola for a less-adventurous alternative: no cola at all.