Global bottled water consumption has continued to increase, with Asia/Australasia and North America leading the markets, according to a recent report.

A global bottled water report by Zenith International, released yesterday (25 October), concluded that total bottled water consumption grew 8% to 187bn litres in 2006.

According to the report, the emerging economies of Asia and East Europe drove volume sales, accounting for almost half of worldwide growth last year. Sales in Asia/Australasia rose 26%. Led by high double digit rises in India, Malaysia, China and Pakistan, the region achieved an 11% lift in volumes from the previous year.

East Europe, which experienced a heatwave in the summer of 2006, saw sales rise by 14% in the year. Africa saw strong growth of 11%, albeit from a lower base. The main impetus elsewhere was provided by North America, which improved sales by 9%. "In terms of absolute growth last year, North America came second after Asia/Australasia, accounting for 21% of extra volume sold," the report said.

Consumption rose in all other regions, with the Middle East, Latin America and West Europe up by 7%, 5% and 3% respectively.

Zenith research director Gary Roethenbaugh said: "Consumers are benefiting as bottled water becomes more widely accessible and as its health, wellbeing and hydration attributes become more universally accepted. Global volumes are expected to overtake carbonated soft drinks within two years, according to Zenith estimates."

The world's top four bottled water groups include Nestlé, Danone, Coca-Cola and PepsiCo, which held a combined 33% share of total volume.

"The top five global brands in volume terms were Aqua from Danone, Pure Life from Nestlé, Aquafina from PepsiCo, Electropura also from PepsiCo and Poland Spring from Nestlé Waters North America," Zenith added.

Zenith has predicted that bottled water consumption will reach 251bn litres in 2011.