Global commercial beverage consumption is set to expand by an impressive 18% over the next six years with all the main drinks categories enjoying volume gains, according to recent research.

In its Global BevCon Trends report, issued yesterday (12 April), Canadean has forecast that soft drinks will remain as the key growth area, adding three percentage points to their lead position. Even the beleaguered carbonates sector is expected to make gains, with only North America actually experiencing a contraction over the period. However, bottled water will remain the star player, the demand for which is forecast to increase by well over 40%.

Although per capita levels are low by international standards, Asia is expected to act as the major catalyst of commercial beverage growth globally. The region's performance relies increasingly on China but India's contribution should not be overlooked, the report said. The country accounts for well over a quarter of Asian consumption. However, on a per capita basis, Taiwan leaps to the fore. On average each Taiwanese inhabitant consumed nearly 633 litres of commercial beverages in 2006, largely due to the country's preference for hot tea, particularly oolong.

Between now and 2012, the report says, Asia will remain as the number one volume contributor but Central & South America is anticipated to wrestle the number two slot away from Western Europe, with North America slipping into fourth position. Soft drinks account for the lion's share of throat in Central & South America with Mexico as the largest market in both per capita and volume terms. Venezuela is top of the per capita league for alcoholic drinks whilst Uruguay, with its heavy milk surplus, leads the way in milk/milk drinks. Argentina has the highest average intake of hot drinks.

After soft drinks, though the other categories will lose share, their present positions will remain intact with hot tea (at RTD equivalent volume) ahead of milk/milk drinks and trailed by beer and hot coffee. Tea's traditional standing in Asia is countering the reputed rise of a coffee culture in the West. That said, coffee consumption is actually forecast to fall in both North America and Western Europe by 2012.

Milk and milk drinks combined are the third largest commercial beverage category and, despite a slowly contracting contribution, they are expected to hold their position for some time. Only two regions - North America and MENA (Middle East & North Africa) - are predicted to reflect a negative volume performance over the period. Meanwhile it is only Australasia, North America and Western Europe that are expected to report a fall in demand for beer. In both instances, it is Asia which is expected to add most to global consumption levels.