In many places around the world, milk is embraced as a beverage for various occasions, from acting as a carrier of grains and fruit for an on-the-go breakfast to delivering functional ingredients that assist with health and wellness. Milk is a universal beverage solution.

U.S. dairy and beverage manufacturers can learn a great deal from their counterparts overseas. For example, just across the Atlantic, with strong ties to the United States, Ireland's Glanbia plc introduces Yoplait® Essence, a range of "concentrated dairy boosts." Glanbia licenses the Yoplait brand from Sodiaal, the same Parisian dairy that licenses the Yoplait brand to companies worldwide.

New Yoplait Essence is a line of shot-style cultured dairy beverages that contain powerful ingredients that have been shown to deliver specific health benefits, according to the company. The health benefit is clearly promoted on front labels.

For example, Immunity Boost contains probiotics, iron and zinc, which the company says provide extra-strength support for a healthy immune system. The Healthy Digestion variety is a concentrated boost of probiotics and soluble fiber, which work together to help maintain a healthy gut, according to Glanbia.

The Lower Blood Pressure and Cholesterol variety contains a unique, concentrated combination of plant sterols and potassium. Studies show that diets rich in plant sterols can lower cholesterol, while diets rich in potassium can help lower blood pressure.

Drinkable cultured dairy beverages are a popular format for functional foods in Europe. Now the format is entering a new category with the launch of the first cultured dairy product said to assist with weight management. Made by leading Portuguese dairy manufacturer Lactogal, the new entrant is called Adagio Versus and is an extension of the existing Adagio functional food brand, which includes Adagion Simbiotico probiotics and prebiotics and cholesterol-lowering Adagio- Col. Adagio Versus contains an emulsified oat oil and palm oil ingredient. The microstructure of the ingredient has the palm oil droplets arriving undigested in the small intestine, prompting a satiety signal to be sent to the brain, according to the company.

In Guatemala, Danone now markets Bebida L

Also in the United Kingdom, Tesco plc rolled out in early 2006 value-added milk drinks and yogurt drinks containing plant sterols, which are associated with lowering cholesterol.

For brain development and heart health, Russia Agusha Dairy has Agu-Mama yogurt drink. It is enriched with vitamins, taurine and omega-3 and 6 fatty acids. It is targeted to pregnant women and nursing women, presumably aiming to improve the level of nutrients being received either directly through the mother's bloodstream, in the case of pregnancy, or through breast milk during feeding.

Dancing Daisy is a fresh, lower-fat acidophilus milk. Its target is people who want to consume more probiotics.

The U.K.'s Dairy Crest offers something comparable for growing kids: St. Ivel advance. This fresh milk is enriched with omega-3s. The company says that omega-3s may enhance learning and concentration in some children.

Olma Dairy of the Czech Republic recently introduced a probiotic sour milk drink flavored with aloe vera called Revital. According to the company, aloe vera contains more than 200 biologically active substances that help consumers recover lost balance and support the feeling of well-being and good inner harmony. The probiotic cultures in the drink are said to have a beneficial influence on digestion and hence on the whole health state.

Some value added milk beverages are just meant to be enjoyed. Spanish dairy Leche Pascual makes milk more fun with single-serve flavored milkshakes. To effectively compete in the marketplace, the company made sure the labels caught the consumer's attention. "Europe's milkshake market is growing fast, and Leche Pascual needed an effective, eye-catching design to make their new product stand out," says Eric Masson, sales director with a shrink-sleeve supplier. "The high-quality printing, which covers the whole of the bottle means that the product has immediate impact when the consumer sees it on a supermarket shelf.

"This is one part of the market which is on the way up. Added vitamins, exciting flavors . . . or milk designed to improve children's health are all a big hit with consumers," he concludes.

Some value-added dairy drinks are not even made by dairies. For example, Australia's Sanitarium Health Food Co., marketers of a wide variety of better-for-you foods and beverages, now offers Up & Go™, an aseptically packaged milk- and cereal-based drink designed as an on-thego breakfast. The line comes in a variety of flavors, including banana, chocolate, iced coffee, strawberry and vanilla. The formula's dairy source is milk powder.

All types of marketers, all over the world, recognize the value of milk. They are making the right product, for the right time, in the right package . . . and consumers are drinking up!