Ready-to-drink coffee in cans first became available in Japan in 1969, so it has been around for almost 40 years. It was developed by a company called UCC Ueshima Coffee Co., a coffee manufacturer and retailer based in the city of Kobe.
Until the arrival of canned coffee, people in Japan did not have a wide choice of beverages to drink when they were out and about - while standing on the platform waiting for a train, for example. Many people drank bottled milk beverages if they got thirsty while not at home.
The invention of canned coffee was inspired by an incident that happened in 1968. One day, the founder of UCC, a man named Ueshima Tadao, was drinking coffee-flavored milk at a train station where his train had stopped. Back in those days, if you drank a bottled beverage you had to return the bottle to the store after you were finished. It turned out that Mr. Ueshima's train was leaving the station earlier than expected, so he did not have time to finish all of his drink. He felt bad about wasting the milk, but there was nothing he could do about it because he had to catch his train. He returned the bottle to the store with the unfinished milk and dashed onto the train at the last minute. This incident made Mr. Ueshima wonder if it would be possible to make a coffee that people could drink anytime, anywhere. And the solution he came up with was canned coffee.
By trial and error, Mr. Ueshima developed a technology for producing coffee drinks that could be put in a can and could stay in the can for a long time without losing their flavor. After a lot of hard work, Mr. Ueshima finally succeeded in producing UCC canned coffee with milk, the world's first canned coffee with milk inside.
Canned coffee was popular at the 1970 Expo in Osaka. (UCC UESHIMA COFFEE Co., Ltd.)
UCC began to sell this coffee, but at first it did not sell as well as expected, perhaps because people were not accustomed to seeing coffee in a can. It was not until 1970, at the World Exposition in Osaka, that canned coffee began to catch on. After offering free samples at the event, UCC received a flood of orders, and sales of canned coffee took off.