Hello Kitty beer isn't kidding around

The cartoon cat aims to get Chinese women to buy a low-alcohol brew. If a former boy band and The Simpsons can sell beer, then why not?

By Jason Notte Sep 18, 2013 8:15AM
Hello Kitty beer advertisement (© Taiwan Tsing Beer Company via Facebook)So, Hello Kitty is selling beer these days, and the business world is suddenly a wellspring of moral outrage.

Please. Sit back, have a beer and let's pretend we all know that Sanrio's flagship character is nearly 40 years old and has fans making retirement plans. "What about the children," you say? What about the even more cynical marketing behind this latest move?

The cans of six fruit-flavored brews -- including peach, lemon-lime, passion fruit, and banana -- all have the purposefully cute cartoon cat on the can. Does that mean they're angling for kids? Not any more than the presence of Samuel Adams on Boston Beer's (SAM) products is a lure for middle school social studies students.

No, the Hello Kitty beers are available only in China and Taiwan, restricted to roughly 2.5% alcohol by volume (or half that of a Budweiser) and are aimed at those nations' adult women.

Marketing to kids of any gender is already unwise, but particularly so in China -- where nearly 56% of men drink and the World Health Organization says high-risk alcohol consumption among them "has reached epic proportions."

As a result, Chinese women don't exactly have a high opinion of beer, thanks to a rate of alcoholism that counts 33 males to every one female. Going after those women with an intoxicating, higher-alcohol brew associated with a boozy night out just isn't going to work.

Tone down the alcohol and soften the image with the more pleasant Hello Kitty, however, and those teetotaling drinkers may enjoy an alcoholic beverage at a much safer pace.

At least that's one theory. The other is that sometimes a beer brand needs a hand from a recognizable name. Here in the U.S., beer companies have lent their labels to former boy band Hanson, the HBO show "Game Of Thrones", Sub Pop Records, sports radio host Dan Patrick, Major League Soccer's D.C. United, MLS fan groups the Timbers Army and Emerald City Supporters, and "Iron Chef" Masaharu Morimoto.

That the company behind the Hello Kitty beers thinks it needs a cartoon cat to appeal to female drinkers is discouraging, but the use of nostalgia and a beloved childhood favorite to sell beer isn't unprecedented. Just ask Universal Studios, which pours both a version of Duff Beer from "The Simpsons" and an interpretation of Butterbeer from the Harry Potter series that can be topped off with a shot of rum.

More on moneyNOW

Sep 18, 2013 10:43AM
I am a bartender part time in Guangzhou, China, and it is amazing how many 5 and 6 year old children are coming in and shooting hard liquor during nap time and recess hours.!  I blame this small kitten character on the cans for this.  One small boy was so drunk on Hello Kitty Banana Flavour, that he couldn't even color inside the lines on our kiddie placemats!  Shocking! 
Sep 18, 2013 10:45AM
I so want a six pack to hide in someone's refrigerator at a party.
Sep 18, 2013 10:34AM
oops!  I thought this was a beer for cats.  I better get Mr. Puss N Boots into some AA meetings, pronto!
Sep 18, 2013 10:35AM

Big deal, they've been selling Hello Kitty wine (Red and Rose, maybe even champagne) in the Asian markets in the U.S. and they have 100% the alcohol of your regular wine.  They have a pink label and I think the red wine shows Hello Kitty with devil ears winking.  Makes the beer look tame or lame.

Sep 18, 2013 10:30AM
Sep 18, 2013 12:02PM
And we thought Joe Camel was a bad marketing idea....
Sep 18, 2013 12:20PM

This sounds like a great idea. I can't imagine how this could possibly go wrong.

Sep 18, 2013 11:45AM

yeah. those LICENSED hello kitty "adult toys" are really directed at the youth too.


c'mon people, expand your world view. hello kitty is not just a kid thing in the Asian market.

Sep 18, 2013 11:56AM

There's a reason why we don't put cute cartoons on bottles of ammonia, kids will see them and drink it.  Hopefully those bottles are stored up high out-of-reach anyhow. 


But these will be right there in the fridge next to the milk and eggs.

Sep 18, 2013 1:01PM
The only thing that pi$$es me off about this is the fact that I will not be able to buy this in the US.
Sep 18, 2013 12:57PM

asians usually can't drink much without feeling sick.


they lack liver enzymes that metabolize alcohol and allow entry into a pleasurable alcohol buzz zone.


so one answer - lower the alcohol content.


but using hello kitty, the whole idea is weak.

Sep 18, 2013 12:31PM
Confusing for kids, if they see this & like Hello Kitty.  I have a neice however, who is above the legal age to drink & I know she would like this because she is a big fan of Hello Kitty.  So I see the pros & cons of this marketing strategy.
Sep 18, 2013 12:48PM
I'm sure the intent for placing a little p---- on the can is to obtain a little p---- for the man.
Sep 18, 2013 11:48AM
This stuff is just asking for children to drink it!  Bad idea!
Sep 18, 2013 1:01PM

I am 40 years old and it is true that I tend to buy everything Hello Kitty that I can find because of it nostalgic factor that reminds me of good times when I was in grammar school.  It's amazing how Sanrio has got my generation hooked on Hello Kitty and continues to get big money out of us.  But this is outrageous.  I am not a drinker but the appeal of Hello Kitty for me is it's connection to the innocent stage of my life.  Seeing her on a can of beer actually turns me off from the brand and may be a reason for me to stop buying the brand.  It represents the "end of innocence" to me.

Sep 18, 2013 12:50PM
Sep 19, 2013 7:32PM
Most people I see who are into Hello Kitty are grown women, well into their 20s, 30s and 40s. I see very few kids with Hello Kitty merchandise.
Sep 18, 2013 11:27AM
Why do adults want to drink hello kitty anything? Creepy on any cultural level.
Sep 18, 2013 12:53PM
And suddenly, I am extremely thirsty,
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