Growth in West Europe's bottled water cooler market slowed to 2% in 2007, yet the number of units installed rose to over 1.9m, according to new research.

The increase, a result of sustained growth in Southern Europe, particularly Spain and Greece, was unveiled in a report by drinks consultancy Zenith International today (23 July).

Around 1.5bn litres were sold through bottled coolers last year, generating an average throughput of 802 litres per unit.

"There were distinct variations in performance across the region with Austria, Greece and Spain sustaining double digit growth while France, Norway and the UK suffered declines," said Zenith market intelligence director Gary Roethenbaugh. "These differences are partly linked to variable summer weather. Britain experienced widespread flooding in June and July. Greece and Italy benefited from a prolonged heatwave, breaking various maximum temperature records.

"Paradoxically, a surge in energy demand for air-conditioning led certain electricity grids to collapse, rendering some water coolers ineffective for a time."

Another factor affecting national growth rates was market maturity. The UK and Scandinavia have well-established cooler industries, dating back around 20 years. This has led to an inevitable deceleration. With a combined 31% share, these countries have a significant impact on Europe's overall picture.

"The other major influence, particularly to the north and west, has been the rapid progress of plumbed-in point of use coolers," added Roethenbaugh.

Zenith forecasts that West Europe bottled water coolers will pass the 2m mark in 2009 and 2.25m by 2012. Volume sales are expected to increase by 23% over the next five years to 1.85bn litres.