Sales of bottled water coolers across Eastern Europe rose markedly last year, according to a recent report.

More than 150,000 bottled water coolers were installed across the region in 2006, global drinks consultancy Zenith International said in a report today (19 October). At 1.2m litres, sales through coolers last year rose to 10% of total bottled water consumption in Eastern Europe, compared to 4% in 1999.

Russia is the leading country with a 36% volume share, ahead of historic leader Poland, which is now on 31%. There follows a substantial gap before Romania on 6%, followed by the Czech Republic and Ukraine, each at 4%. Almost all markets experienced substantial growth in 2006, with 12 of the 15 countries analysed exceeding a 15% increase. Growth is currently being led by Belarus and Serbia-Montenegro, both countries enjoying rises above the average, at over 40%. Meanwhile, countries within the European Union have averaged 9% growth, heavily influenced by the large and mature Polish market.

"The East European water cooler market continues to flourish, in contrast to relatively flat sales for the more mature West European market," said Zenith research director Gary Roethenbaugh. "There remains significant potential across the region - and 2007 looks set to be another successful year."

Nestlé Waters is the overall leader in the region, with sizeable operations in Poland and Russia, Zenith noted. Eden Springs comes second, followed by the Clear Water Company in Russia, Gelsva in Lithuania and La Fantana in Romania.

Unlike West Europe, mains-fed water coolers have yet to gain a foothold in the region, although there are signs of early adoption in some of Russia's major cities. "With limited competing technologies, the prospects for bottled coolers in East Europe will remain buoyant for several years to come," Roethenbaugh added.

Zenith expects cooler numbers in East Europe to double again within five years. On this basis, sales volumes should reach 2.4m litres in 2011.