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European and North American beverage makers are increasingly turning to producing niche products, no longer relying on their strong brands to grow market share.

According to an online report by NutraIngredients.com, beverage companies now have to segment markets in news ways and blend across territories creating products like fizzy milk.

The report cites an Richard Haffner, Euromonitor head of non-alcoholic beverages research, telling BeveragDaily.com that the packaged drinks market in Europe and North America is now strictly share game.

Haffner was also quoted as saying beverage companies need to be in touch with changing consumer tastes more than ever in order to think of new product concepts and ideas to persuade customers to buy their products.

Other industry experts have made similar observations. Last year the Beverage Trends: Culinary Trend Mapping Report, put together by the Center for Culinary Development in the US and Packaged Facts, found significant market potential in niche products tailored to certain demographics – be they teens, savvy parents, or active baby boomers.

Beverage brand owners are also more likely to try new spins on old favourites, rather than changing the recipe of its major money spinners.

In markets where stevia-derived sweeteners are already permitted, such as the US, Australia and New Zealand, and France, brand-owners are not taking chances with their major brands. Since stevia, although sweet, has a taste profile all of its own, the industry realises there is a need for consumers to get to know – and accept – the taste. This means they have been dipping their toes with niche brands, rather than taking the plunge with major brands and risking mass rejection.

Familiar brands may also have been tweaked in to appeal to taste preferences of a given population or geography, the report says.

Fanta is a prime example of this – and its tendency to take on a local spin has an intriguing history. During World War II, trading bans meant Coca Cola in Nazi Germany could not get hold of the syrup needed to make regular Coke, so they developed a whole new drink using locally available ingredients. The name sprang from a brainstorming session, where boss Max Keith asked his team to use their imagination, or ‘Fantasie’ in German.

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