Bottled water sales in the UK rose slightly last year, driven by retail sizes under 10 litres, according to recent research.

The latest edition of Zenith’s UK bottled water market report, published late last month, has found that overall volume sales in the country grew by 0.7% in 2010 to 2.06bn litres. Retail sizes under 10 litres, which accounted for 83% of the total, achieved 2.4% growth.

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The bottled cooler market, however, declined by 8.3%, due to “ongoing challenging economic conditions and continued loss of business to plumbed-in water coolers”.

The report also claims that still water was responsible for 86% of last year's volumes, with sparkling water accounting for 14%. Locally produced waters accounted for 76% and imported waters 24%. Meanwhile, bottled water coolers have fallen to 14% of consumption, compared with 21% in 2004.

“We have always believed that the benefits of convenient healthy hydration create an underlying momentum towards long-term growth,” said Zenith's chairman, Richard Hall. “Against that, concerns have been raised about environmental impact, but these are progressively being answered.

“The economic downturn has been another adverse factor in the past three years, putting greater emphasis on value for money.

“The weather is also an important variable – very poor in both 2007 and 2008, but somewhat more favourable in 2009 and 2010.  Finally, the water cooler segment has changed dramatically – from rapid growth in bottles to even higher consumption from point of use.”

The report forecasts continuing moderate overall growth, taking sales up a further 14% to 2.34bn litres in the UK by 2015.

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