Sipahh's entrance into the UK market is a modern day David and Goliath story. It was launched there early in 2007, but its Australian inventor Unistraw had been making waves there well before then, taking on the world's biggest food manufacturer.

In January 2006, Unistraw took Nestlé to the High Court, claiming it had copied Sipahh for its Nesquik Magic Straws, which use similar bead technology. Unistraw alleged this happened after negotiations exploring Nestlé's UK commercialisation of Sipahh broke down.

Nestlé denied the allegations, and in mid 2006 the case was settled out of court, but the stage had been set for a battle of the straws.

Magic Straws' launch at the start of 2006 was backed with a £3m marketing campaign, including TV. Sipahh hit the market a year later, backed by a campaign that concentrated more on sampling, and has so far managed to hold its own.

Andrew Robinson of UK licence-holder Strawtech says he is not concerned about competing with a large multinational. "We have a lot more flavours to roll out in the UK, which will put us in a good place against Magic Straws," he says.

Robinson thinks his strong position is down to Unistraw's pioneering work. His NPD budget is limited, but Unistraw has a research and development facility in Australia, and has already developed a number of new concepts for which he will given a licence to sell. "Unistraw develops the products for Europe at its manufacturing base in China, and then companies from across the globe send in their own artwork. It's a simple process."

The company's UK operations are also more straightforward than other countries, he says. "In the UK, if you want to list a product with a retailer, you deal with one buyer to get a national listing. In South Africa, retailers are split up into different regions, and you have to go to each region and negotiate with each buyer. We also have to employ people there to ensure that the merchandising is done correctly in stores, while over here it is an internal job for the supermarkets. This makes the UK a much easier to market to work in."