Coca-Cola Amatil is looking to launch its New Zealand soft drink Lemon & Paeroa into Europe believing that specialist brands can make an impact with consumers looking for a change.

The bottler, who has Coke's Australasian franchise, will use a new company, Paeroa Bottlers, to move L&P into the UK and then other countries. The company has already appointed a broker and is looking for a European distributor.

L&P was first made in the 1890s from Paeroa's famous effervescent spring water. Lemons from a local orchard were added to create the country's best known soft drink.

L&P has become a national icon in New Zealand, in a similar way to Irn Bru in Scotland.

With the introduction of Coke, Pepsi and the other big US brands L&P has slipped in market share and now accounts for only about 6% of the NZ soft drink market.

But its brand is much stronger than its market share suggests with its slogan "world famous in New Zealand" holding a strong emotional attachment.

And Coca-Cola Amatil believes that the drink's unusual flavour and quirky marketing, using the "world famous" slogan, will win a niche slice of the UK market.

"We want to get into bars and cafes in places like London and New York," says marketing manager Richard Warren.

"Kiwis around the world will pick it up and say to their friends 'try this'. We want L&P to be a flagship for New Zealand in the same way that Coke is for the US.

"We believe that people are looking for a new experience and we hope they will be attracted to what the drink stands for. We also believe that driving international expansion will strengthen the brand here and reinforce the unique image of the brand."

Warren is looking for a distributor and believes that because of the weak Kiwi dollar imports into the UK will be able to undercut other soft drinks. As a rough estimate a bottle could be produced for about 20p compared with about 28p for UK made drinks.

The company is also looking at alcopop versions of L&P although so far nothing has been developed with an appropriate taste.

Warren says the decision to use the name Paeroa Bottlers was to reflect the uniqueness of the brand: "Consumers who will buy this in Europe will want to think that it is "handmade", a specialist drink, so we think it is better that they see Paeroa Bottlers on the label rather than Coca-Cola Amatil."

L&P is unlikely to sweep Coke, Pepsi and Tango aside in the UK when it appears but if Coca-Cola Amatil can prove that there is a market for quirky specialist soft drinks it could lead to a revitalised future for domestic soft drinks.

If soft drinks are to be exported out of their domestic markets one sure winner in the UK would be the Cuban soft drink Dribbly - which is bound to appeal to the warped British sense of humour.