Beer led an ongoing upturn in Hungarian packaged beverage consumption last year and will do so again in 2003. The sector, which represents around four fifths of packaged beverage sales, put on 7% volume driven by increasing real incomes and a hot summer.

The data, from a report released by the beverage analyst Canadean shows that the rise was shared by cans which now account for about one fifth of beer packaging. Despite this, glass remains the most important pack type for beer, not least because of Hungary's large production capacity. Within the 80% of sales accounted for by glass, refillable bottle's share remained static while non-refillables increased sales marginally owing to their popularity in on-premise consumption. However, all pack types could benefit dramatically if, as Canadean predicts, demand returns to the levels of the 1990s due to fierce competition caused by overcapacity within the brewing industry.

Carbonated soft drinks experienced moderate growth of almost 5% in consumption and is the second largest sector, having volume equal to only 10% of beer. Non-refillable PET saw its share of the pack mix soar by 29% - much of it at the expense of cans, which (ironically in view of their success as beer packaging) are perceived as 'unhealthy' by consumers. PET also benefited from an 18% rise in packaged water volumes driven by the sparkling segment.

Despite the steady growth of still water the leading position of sparkling water is maintained due to Hungary's long-standing tradition of carbonated water consumption. Although the nation's water intake is now approaching the European level, fillings are expected to keep growing at above the average rate.

Packaging innovations (such as new closure tabs on cartons, and PET use in nectars) are tipped to help revive the shrinking juice and nectars market which has recently fallen victim to consumers' growing interest in cheaper still drinks. PET is also playing a pivotal role in still drinks. The carton remains the most important pack type but a record high consumption of 24 litres per capita has boosted the sales of 50-cl PET packs.

Overall the Hungarian packaged beverage market rose by almost 8% last year. Refillable volume fell 4.3 % while non-refillable was up 41%, mainly due to the substitution of cans for glass bottles in beer packaging.

Looking ahead Canadean claims that any further increases in non-refillable packaging will be largely attributable to PET, which has already made significant inroads into water, carbonates, still drinks and nectars.