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Small Business Digest


Two Small Beverage Producers Step Lively Against Big Brands, Win Marketshare

In recent months, two upstart companies have demonstrated that smaller competitors can battle big brands and win.

While Coca Cola and Cargill and Pepsico have been making headlines about "future" product introductions, Zevia (, a Seattle-based independent, has been distributing their four flavors of stevia sweetened carbonated drinks nationwide since 2007 --- in both natural food stores and major grocery chains.

Stevia is a type of supplement that many experts believe will create a whole new category in the beverage aisle. 

Ironically created as an answer to the less than natural products offered by Coke and Pepsi, Zevia is said to be the first company to get a stevia sweetened beverage product on the shelves nationwide. They also claim to be the first to file stevia/soda formulation patents and stevia-related trademarks in this new all-natural, zero-calorie beverage category.

This is another example of a smaller company having the ability to move more quickly than larger rivals into a new market.

The principals are Seattle-based attorneys and entrepreneurs who have not only created an all natural product using stevia that has increased its production numbers eight fold in 2008. 

The company's management says they have also positioned their product and brand in such a way to present a significant obstacle for any of the majors attempting to unveil a similar product.

Despite the fact that Zevia had to originally launch their enterprise under the dietary supplement moniker, FDA approval successes for Cargill and Coke will be a double edged sword for those companies whose GRAS certification efforts will also pave the way for Zevia to transition to GRAS as well.

GRAS stands for "Generally Regarded As Safe" as a food additive and makes distribution easier and more widespread.

The company claims that it has played its cards right in a highly competitive industry that is just now catching up to natural ingredients and finally recpgmozomg consumer demand to dispense with artificial sweeteners.

In coming months, as news of the battle between Truvia, Purevia and others reinforces Zevia's position, the increased public awareness could fuel growing demand for their product from consumers and retailers alike who want this next generation soft drink.

Zevia has and will continue to stand alone on grocery store shelves as the only stevia sweetened alternative to artificially sweetened sodas. It is a first-to-market product with a group of people working to pave the way for its success.

At the same time, an entrepreneur in Laos has started a trend in beer consumption by Americans.  Some experts think it may mimic the success of Corona beer in establishing a cache amongst certain beer drinking groups.

Lao Brewery Company is a small brewer in Laos whose president/owner noticed tourists were bringing home cases of her beer.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Sivilay Lasachack learned her brewing expertise in Russia and based her beer on a Czech formulation.

The beer, Beerlao, is popular in Laos, a country of six million people.
Laos is currently a trendy place for backpackers and adventure travelers.

By carefully nurturing foriegn markets such as Britain and the US, Sivily (the last name comes first in Laos) has attracted an investment by Carlsberg SA of Denmark.

They company's Ameican distributor told the Wall Street Journal that Beerlao is winning fans in the US.

These two examples demonstrate the ability of smaller firms to successfully battle big brand giants and should be watched for ideas that could help other smaller enterprises.

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