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German Cola Hopes to Score Big in America

Coca-Cola is known and loved worldwide. Now an obscure upstart cola from eastern Germany is hoping to crack Coke's home market. But will Score Cola make it big in America?


Less sugar but with all the taste

Coke or Pepsi? That's the usual choice for cola lovers in the United States. But the Lichtenauer Mineralquellen beverage company from the eastern German state of Saxony wants to see to it that Americans in future will have a third drink on their lips when it comes to the all-important cola question.

Ralf Sippel, the company's head of marketing, chose New York's Summer Fancy Food Show to bring Score Cola to America's shores. The food trade fair often serves as an important venue to introduce specialty products.

"It’s daring, it’s risky, but that’s the way we are! We’re from eastern Germany, where we are the market leader for mineral water and healthy drinks," said Sippel. "We want the world -- that’s why we have come to New York. And the feedback we’ve had so far has shown us that we can hold our own."

What makes Lichtenauer so confident that it can succeed where so many other cola brands have failed? Sippel believes there's enough room in the American market for another niche product that appeals to more health-conscious consumers. That's because Score Cola has less sugar than normal drinks, but doesn't skimp on taste like diet colas.

Soft drinks all day

"It's a market for soft drinks. Most people drink them all day. And that means there is here especially a need to do something about all the sugar," Sippel said, adding on one hand people are really interested in healthy food, but on the other they find it's too difficult to do anything about it. "So I think if those health freaks don’t have to count every individual calorie and additive, then we’ve found the right balance."

Besides marketing the healthier aspect of the reduced sugar content, Lichtenauer hopes to take advantage of the growing fragmentation of the U.S. beverage market and the trend towards more niche products such as energy drinks. Sippel, however, is aware that his adventurous foray in America isn't likely to turn into his main market overnight. First they'll have to find a U.S. distributor.

"As a German exotic we can play the role of a pioneer here. And maybe that will be enough to get us noticed," he said.

And going by the opinions of visitors to the food fair, Coke and Pepsi may have to start watching their backs.

"I try not to drink so much cola -- that was the only way to lose weight," a man at the Score Cola stand told German ARD television. He liked Score's strategy of less sugar, but all the taste, too. "Cola without the artificial sweeteners just tastes better."

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