Coca Cola India has said it recorded an 18% increase in soft drinks volumes in its third quarter, boosted by improved routes to market and strong marketing.

The rise, announced by Coca-Cola India this week, is the highest the company has seen since 2003, before it was subject to allegations of pesticide residues in drinks.

Viraj Chouhan, Coca-Cola India's head spokesman, said the group had improved its route-to-market strategy, including better stock management, setting up depots and servicing them, and strengthening its sales and distribution networks.

"Trademark Coca-Cola and Maaza grew in double digits," said Chouhan.

The company's bottling division, Hindustan Coca-Cola Beverages (HCCB), has also streamlined purchasing and operations, an exercise that began two years ago with an investment of US$250M.

In the third quarter of 2006, Coca-Cola reversed two years of negative quarterly growth and reported a 4% increase in unit case volumes.

Another rise in 2008 serves to underline the importance of emerging markets to Coca-Cola's business.

The Coca-Cola Co last week announced 14% and 9% increases in net earnings and revenue respectively for the 12 weeks ended 26 September, despite a 2% revenue decline in its North American heartland.