Soft drinks consumption in Chile grew 1.8% to 765m litres in the first half of 2003, according to the National Soft Drinks Association

The 1.8% growth rate represents a significant rise compared to the same period of 2002, when growth was 0.6%.

Anber President Renato Ramírez said the new results were much better than expected.

"This acceleration in consumption can be explained basically by our 5.4% growth rate in the second quarter, ... since in the first quarter sales fell by 1.1%," Ramírez said.

The association president said that in recent years soft drinks sales had generally kept pace with Chile's overall economic growth rate, which has been relatively strong since the 1998-99 economic crisis.

"Growth in soft drinks consumption has averaged 2.2% per year between the first six months of 1999 and 2003," he said.