After low annual growth over the past three years, France is set to post record sales of mineral water due to the prolonged heatwave.

Having recorded 11% growth in sales in June, with 740 million litres of stock shifted, July saw a hike of 18.5 % on summer 2002 levels. Sales of flavoured mineral water soared by 46% in June.

Hypermarket giant Carrefour reports its mineral water sales up by 20 to 50%, compared to 20 to 40% for beers and by 10 to 20% for sodas.

Sales of some small brands of mineral water have risen by as much as 50%.

However, some of the big producers in the sector are playing down the positive impact on sales from France's hottest summer since 1947 by comparing it with trends on the international market this year.

Nestle Waters points to its Perrier brand as suffering due to the Iraqi war and the SARS epidemic in Asia.