Analysts at Zenith International have said drinks consumption across West Europe, United States and Japan rose by 12 per cent from a 2005 point of 892 million litres. And by the end of this year consumption could hit the 1,111 million litre mark, the report added. Analyst Jenny Foulds said: "The early influence of Japan's Yakult, the daily dose probiotic yoghurt shot, is undoubtedly one of the main reasons why the functional dairy drinks market has been able to develop so successfully." The rise in sales reflects increasing consumer demand for functional foods, which are seen to be healthy, improve lifestyle and are easily ingested. Indeed, companies are looking for more innovative ways of getting on the functional yoghurt drink bandwagon, and just yesterday Russia's Wimm-Bill-Dann said it will launch a probiotic drink and drinking yoghurt aimed at boosting skin health. In 2004 Yakult passed its 10-year anniversary on the European market, and its presence and success, spurred others to launch other functional products. By 2011 sales of functional dairy drinks across the markets of West Europe, United States and Japan are projected to reach 1,600 million litres and €6,250m in value by 2011, Zenith said. Zenith's 2007 Functional Dairy Drinks report said Western Europe is by far the largest of the three markets, seeing strong double figure growth in 2006. Europeans account for just over 56 per cent of the market. The US is experiencing year on year growth of around 50 per cent, albeit from a low base. America accounts for just 1.8 per cent of the market. Japan's volume share is "slowly being eroded", the report added. Traditional probiotic yogurt shots are declining in some markets, Zenith said. Zenith analysts said consumer confusion over health claims and an overwhelming variety is also hampering growth, but these difficulties are being overcome by dairy-based opportunities in other functional beverage categories, such as sports drinks, energy drinks and cosmeceuticals. Foulds added: "As health conscious consumers seek more individual solutions and choices, the uppermost challenge for those entering the functional dairy drinks category is how to respond to this ever changing agenda. Product positioning will become increasingly important, as will appealing to principles such as convenience, provenance and health" "Further investment in new functional ingredients and flavours, supported by a growing body of evidence in favour of dairy's wide ranging benefits, will ensure continued potential for future growth," she added. More recently companies have been looking to incorporate probiotics outside of the traditional yoghurt pot. Chr Hansen launched a probiotic strain in Ciambello cheese in Italy, which will contain the bacteria BB-12. Dairy foods, including fermented milks and yoghurts, are among the best accepted food carriers for probiotic cultures, which are frequently limited to refrigerated foods as they are sensitive to heat, humidity and other harsh conditions.