Brewer Carlsberg acquire Laos plant Carlsberg has stepped up its presence within soft drinks sector by acquiring a 70 per cent stake in the Lao Soft Drink Co from the government of Laos. The share purchase of the formerly state-owned enterprise, which acts as the bottler of Pepsi products like 7-Up and Mirinda in the country, will grant Carlsberg control of a new plant in the country with 290 employees and a capacity of about 400,000 hectolitres. Henrik Juel Andersen, managing director of Carlsberg Indochina said that the investment in the company would act as a strong addition to the Group's existing portfolio in the region. "It is a very professionally run operation in every aspect, the factory is of international standard, and produces high quality products," he stated. "Carlsberg is excited about the opportunity to further strengthen the operation in close cooperation with the government and the company's management". Carlsberg already works with the government holding equal shares in the Lao Beer Co. Coca-Cola looks eastwards The Greek Coca Cola Hellenic Bottling Company (CCHBC) is looking to make small-to-medium acquisitions in Central Europe and Russia to broaden its product range, Chief Executive Doros Constantinou told Reuters. According to the news agency, the Coca-Cola bottler is looking to boost its non-carbonated portfolio, which currently includes soft drinks such as juices and water, as well as coffees and teas. "For the following years, the focus is to fill in the gaps we have in our portfolio that are primarily in juice in central Europe and water in countries such as Russia," he said. According to market analysts Zenith International, soft drinks are becoming more and more popular in Eastern Europe, especially bottled water, as consumption increased by 15 per cent during 2006. For a study published this week, Zenith focused on fifteen national markets in the region, including Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia and Ukraine. Zenith's research director Gary Roethenbaugh said that each of these markets has posted strong growth during the year, highlighting the strong potential for the region as a whole. "Volumes have jumped by an impressive 71 per cent since 2001 and we believe they will climb 34 per cent more over the next five years," he stated.