Rising sales in North America drove Nestlé Waters to a year of "strong growth" in 2005.

The French bottled water group today (7 March) posted a 9.3% increase in sales to CHF8.8bn (US$6.7bn) on the back of double-digit growth from its operations in North America. EBITA hit CHF709m.

The performance meant the company regained its position as the world's largest bottled water producer by volume, it said. In value terms, Nestlé Waters controls an 18% share of the world's bottled market.

"Nestlé Waters has done more than defend its position, by successfully maintaining a rhythm of sustained growth, higher than that of the market," said chairman and CEO Carlo Donati.

"This performance enables Nestlé Waters to consolidate its leadership and to contribute fully to the growth of the Nestlé group."

The growth in North America was driven by sales of Nestlé Pure Life, which saw volumes rise by over 50%. Nevertheless, the company said increased competition and a price war had led to "sluggish growth" in the Home & Office Delivery (HOD) sector. 

European markets remained flat with demand for own-label, low cost bottled water hitting sales of branded labels, Nestlé Waters said.

Elsewhere, sales in Africa and the Middle East leapt almost 21%, with "major contributions" from its operations in Turkey, South Africa and Saudi Arabia.

Meanwhile, sales in Asia also rose by almost 21%, driven by a strong performance in Japan, where Nestlé Waters has a tie-up with Suntory. Sales in Latin America were up 16.8%.

Looking ahead, the company said it would continue to concentrate on product innovation, following a year in which its Vittel brand underwent a makeover.