The Western Europe water cooler industry is fast approaching 2.8m units in active use, having witnessed growth of almost 30% in four years, according to new research.

The study, released by food and drink consultancy Zenith International this week, showed that in 2008 a 17% climb in the point of use (POU) segment more than offset a 3% decline in bottled cooler placements, bringing overall growth to 3%.

The UK and Italy reigned as the leading cooler countries in Western Europe, with a combined unit share of 42%.

However, whilst the UK and Netherlands recorded net declines in 2008, Greece, Italy and Denmark were notable for their strong performances.

"Well established bottled cooler markets are providing a key platform for POU development," said Zenith director Mark Groves. "With POU operators heavily promoting the perceived costs savings, convenience, hygiene and environmental benefits over bottled coolers, many end users are encouraged to convert. This has prompted a growing number of operators across Europe to offer both formats."

Looking to the future, Zenith forecasted that, during the next five years, over 700,000 cooler units will be installed across West Europe, bringing the combined installed base to around 3.5 million in 2013, with the share of POU expected to surpass 40%.