Fierce competition in China's soft drinks industry forced producers of the country's top 10 brands, which includes Coca-Cola and Pepsi to drop their prices by between 2-12% last year.

However the market remains buoyant and on top of annual growth rates of an average 23% between 1980-1999, production of soft drinks in China in 2000 rose by 25.7% to 14.91m tons.

Statistics also show that bottled drinks are most popular with an annual output of 5.54m tonnes, carbonated drinks came second with 4.2m tonnes and tea-based beverages came third with 1.85m tonnes.

And a survey of almost 2,000 people across six cities asking consumers to rate 23 different brands of soft drinks saw Coca-Cola, Pepsi and Sprite dominating the marketplace in both brand value and consumer opinion, while local brands proved less popular with consumers.

The image of soft drinks is also improving and a report by Asia Pulse claims the survey revealed that Pepsi and Coca-Cola (as one of the earliest brands entering the Chinese market) have won full approval of the Chinese people for the "social" image, which they portray.