NEW DRINKS ARE POURING IT ON

BATH, England (FNS) -- Ready-to-drink iced tea is catching on in Switzerland, hard cider is winning over consumers in the United Kingdom and sports drinks are scoring big in Spain.Beverage industry executives meeting here recently said they expect such alternative drinks and others such as RTD coffees and flavored mineral waters to continue to boom in Europe in the 1990s. They shared their opinions

BATH, England (FNS) -- Ready-to-drink iced tea is catching on in Switzerland, hard cider is winning over consumers in the United Kingdom and sports drinks are scoring big in Spain.

Beverage industry executives meeting here recently said they expect such alternative drinks and others such as RTD coffees and flavored mineral waters to continue to boom in Europe in the 1990s. They shared their opinions at a three-day conference on "Lifestyle Drinks for the 1990s," organized here by marketing consultant company Zenith International.

Gary Olliver, strategic services director for H.P. Bulmer Ltd., Hereford, England, said cider now accounts for more than 6% of the total U.K. drinks market, with 89 million gallons a year sold. The drink has a broader age range than other beverages, has a higher proportion of female drinkers than beer does and fits in with the younger age group's demand for higher-alcohol products.

Bulmer, which acquired Belgian cider-maker Stassen in 1992, is now looking to develop cider as a mainstream drink throughout Europe, Olliver said.

Iced teas and, in the future, iced coffees represent a huge potential market in Europe, said Mario Mueller, beverages manager at Migros-Genossenschafts-Bund, Switzerland. Migros, the nation's largest food retailer with more than 550 stores, has been selling iced tea for the last decade in both powdered and liquid form. It now sells about 40 million liters of liquid iced tea and 20 million liters' worth of powdered a year -- in a market of fewer than 7 million people.

Iced tea now accounts for about 3.9% of the Swiss drinks market. Mueller said iced tea is also gaining in popularity in surrounding countries. "If this trend keeps going on, I am convinced that iced tea will achieve a similar important position in the rest of Europe," he said.

Nash's Mineral Waters, based in Ireland, already has begun distributing Maspeth, N.Y.-based Royal Mistic's iced teas throughout Europe. Jim Pomroy, chairman and chief executive officer of Everfresh Beverages, predicted similar performance for RTD coffee in the United States.

Everfresh, based in Purchase, N.Y., recently acquired Jamaican Gold iced coffee in the United States, and Pomroy predicted the market there could be worth $175 million to $200 million in three to five years. The beverage is a premium product, but is price-sensitive. Other potential problems include tricky manufacturing, intense servicing and the fact that it borders on being a fashion business, Pomroy said. While the category definitely is here to stay, the Everfresh chairman said it probably will always remain a niche product.

Another niche product in Europe and the United States is sports drinks, which are proliferating. The latest entrant is Coca-Cola's Aquarius, which was launched in Japan a decade ago and recently was introduced in Spain. The drink so far has achieved a 50% share of Spain's sports drink market, said Everett Womack, director of business development at Coca-Cola Great Britain and Ireland.

In the United States, Coca-Cola is experimenting with Powerade, which has a slightly younger and more male profile than Aquarius. Powerade as captured 12% of the sports drink market in supermarkets in its test cities in the United States, Womack said.

The most developed alternative beverage in Europe and the United States is mineral water. Clearly Canadian, a hot seller in North America, will expand throughout the United Kingdom this year through a distribution agreement with Callitheke, a subsidiary of Grand Metropolitan. Callitheke also plans to push the line into Belgium, the Netherlands, Sweden and Norway in 1994, said Swede Ewing, Clearly Canadian's managing director of new business development.

Roland Bengtsson, managing director of Swedish beverage company AB Ramlosa Halsobrunn, predicted strong growth in northern Europe for nonsparkling mineral waters as well as coolers. "For the next 10 years we can anticipate a steady growth in the water industry, with up to 10% in increases per year on an overall European and worldwide perspective," he said. "Most of the growth will come from the still water segment and in the water cooler business."