Baltic Beverage Holding (BBH), the Russian-based brewing joint venture between Carlsberg and Scottish & Newcastle (S&N), has claimed that its brand, Baltika, is now Europe's number two best-selling beer after Heineken.

BBH's managing director, Christian Ramm-Schmidt, said that Baltika had achieved sales volumes just in excess of 9m hls in 2002, putting it ahead of the Heineken-owned brand, Amstel, into the number two spot.

BBH said that Heineken remained the clear European best-seller with volumes of 12.65m hls in 2002 but Ramm-Schmidt said it would not be impossible for Baltika even to close that gap.

However, Heineken observed that its sales are better spread over the whole region whereas Baltika sales were concentrated in Russia where it had benefited from consumers switching from drinking vodka to drinking beer.