The soft drinks world's leading producers have been busy this month with launches from Coke and Pepsi, but it is the fast growing Red Bull which may steal the limelight with a sugar-free version of its eponymous energy drink. Meanwhile the alcoholic milk sector continues to struggle to break into the mainstream.

The introduction of a sugar-free version of Red Bull is among the leading developments this month and drinks analyst Mintel believes its arrival could lead to a spate of "me-too" line extensions from others in the category, boosting the sugar-free segment of this market, which has so far been under-developed. Red Bull's sugar-free launch is finally taking place in the UK and the US. The UK line still contains high-energy caffeine and taurine, but is sweetened with aspartame and acesulfame K.

Red Bull sugar free is sure to be a high profile launch, but it is not alone among the world's big brands to announce line extensions in the last month. Coca-Cola has announced that it will launch an extension of its lemon-lime soft drink brand Sprite, in the US. The number one lemon/lime beverage in the US market will be extended by the arrival of Sprite Remix. The new beverage is a new tropical version of Sprite and will be launched with a unique graphic treatment of the signature Sprite logo. Rollout is scheduled for late spring 2003, in which it will initially be available in 20-oz. bottles and will be available in additional package sizes later in the spring and summer.

Almost as if it was planned, Coke's big rival PepsiCo also revealed details for a new carbonate, making sure Coke did not steal all the limelight. Pepsi's Mountain Dew brand will get its second flavour extension with the roll out of Mountain Dew LiveWire . LiveWire is to be an orange-flavour extension and will be available across the US through the summer.

Away from the carbonate market and Mintel continues to see a growing trend towards fortified beverages (juices in particular) to boost the diet with vitamins and minerals (rather than through taking tablet/capsule vitamin supplements). Many such launches have already been reported in North America, but the latest has appeared in Ireland. New there under an aptly named, Vitz Liquid Health label is a range of low sugar, no fat, low calorie "daily vitamin boost" juice drinks available in two varieties. The Tropical Tease Multi Vitamin Defence variety is fortified with vitamins A, C, E, B6, B12, H and B5, and is designed to replace lost nutrients and "defend against the hazards of modern living". While the Bursting Berry Boost Vitamin & Ginseng Energy variety is enriched with vitamins C, B6, B3 and B5 as well as folic acid and ginseng, and is said to add zing to the consumer's day.

Back across the Atlantic, Shannon Minerals of Limerick has launched its Tri na nog Functional Waters into Canada, water which is said to contain ingredients that aid common ailments. The lineup includes Boost, to fight colds; Osteo, to promote breast and bone health; Slim, to help curb appetites; Mineral Max, to restore antioxidants; Cardio, to reduce critical blood fats; Effervescent Get Up & Go, for men; and Detox, a peach-flavoured beverage for women to aid recovery from hangovers.

While the RTD and FAB market continues to evolve, attempts to market milk-based FABs persist. Past attempts include Super Milch in Germany (a 5.5% ABV vodka milk shake drink) and Moo in the UK (a 5% ABV milkshake "alcoholic dairy cooler"). A more recent attempt has been made in New Zealand by Independent Liquor which has launched Vodka Mudshake Chocolate with 5% ABV. Independent Liquor has also added another interesting flavour addition to the New Zealand FABs market: vanilla. This again has been added to vodka to create Platinum Vanilla & Vodka. Both products come in single serve glass bottles in multipacks of four.

Keeping with a milk base, but looking at drinks of a non-alcoholic nature, Mars is again promoting the antioxidant and heart-health benefits of cocoa beans through a new company division, The Positive Food Company. The company is set to introduce a number of healthy cocoa snack products, the first of which is Positively Healthy Cocoa Drink. The single dose (85ml) chilled milk drink is said to be high in natural cocoa antioxidants and is marketed with the strapline "top up your body's defences".

Two-piece metal cans, mostly used in the soft drinks market are making an appearance in hot beverages. New in Finland from Robert's Coffee is Consul After Dinner Vienna Roast ground coffee. It is set to stand out on shelf as it is packaged in an uncommonly slender 200g two-piece aluminium can with a ring-pull and an additional plastic cap to maintain its freshness.

From coffee to tea, Steap Green Tea Sodas in the US are all-natural sodas that claim to be the first soda marked with the new USDA certified organic seal. Moreover they combine healthy green tea with popular sodas such as cola. The soda is brewed using Ceylon green tea and comes in Cola, Lemon Dew, Raspberry, Orange, Key Lime, and Root Beer flavours.

Green tea is also an ingredient in Cricket Green Tea Cola from Cricket Cola, available in regular and diet versions.