AmBev, the Brazilian drinks group, launched its Guarana Antarctica soft drink in Portugal on July 12 in what it said was a cautious first step toward its ambition to make the brand a global player. AmBev claimed it would invest $4.7m on the launch over the next two years and aimed to win 3 per cent of Portugal's soft drinks market within a couple of years. The guarana drink is made from a berry grown in the Amazon. It would be available in cans and 1.5 litre bottles at 70,000 points of sale across Portugal. AmBev expects to sell 1.5 million litres this year in sales worth $850,000. Magim Rodrigues, general director of AmBev said the Portugal launch would be a litmus test of how best to sell the Brazilian drink abroad. "It's our plan to expand to other countries, but we haven't decided which ones," he told a conference call from the Portuguese capital Lisbon. "We are not in a rush." AmBev chose Portugal for the launch because of the close cultural connections and the insistence of PepsiCo Inc. and Sumolis, which will bottle and distribute the drink. Late 1999, Pepsi agreed with AmBev to distribute Guarana across the world. AmBev distributes Pepsi products in Brazil. Rodrigues said the Portuguese launch would be closely monitored while AmBev continued to survey the suitability of selling Guarana in some 75 other countries where Pepsi operates. "It's a strategic launch ... we don't want to run any risks in any other markets," Rodrigues said. Portugal could be seen as a safe bet as Guarana berry drinks are already available in Portuguese shops and the two countries have very strong cultural links. According to data from AmBev, the Portuguese soft drink market is also relatively small at 734 million litres per year compared to Brazil's enormous 11 billion litres although per capita Portuguese drink 73 litres a year while Brazilians drink 66 litres. Joao Costa, the president of Pepsi in Portugal, said Guarana advertising would play to the Portuguese love of all things Brazilian from carnival to bikinis to beaches and soccer.