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AUSTRALIA: Bottled water fastest growing drinks market

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Bottled water has become Australia's fastest growing beverage market easily eclipsing flavoured soft drinks, ready to drink spirit mixes and wine.

Tony Gentile, chief executive of the Australian Bottled Water Institute says that while statistics are "nebulous" growth has been at a rate of 10% by volume for the past five years and remains at least at that level in 2003.

More than 1000 brands are available with new domestic and imported brands appearing virtually on a monthly basis. But five local brands - Mount Franklin, Cool Ridge, Palm Springs, Peat Ridge Springs and Neverfail - hold 95% of a market put at more than 500 million litres a year. Per capita consumption is 27 litres a year and Gentile says there is still enormous potential.

He told just-drinks the demand had broken the generation barrier. While bottle brands had steadily increasing appeal among young adults there was also a noticeable increase in use by older consumers many of whom were switching from tea and coffee.

Although health and lifestyle are potent factors, the health factor is muted in Australia since producers cannot make health claims which have not been approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration.

Despite acknowledged - and rigorously enforced - standards of purity, tap water in the various Australian states and territories has long been thought to have off tastes. The bottled water market got a huge boost in 1998 when the water-borne parasites giardia and cryptosporidium were found in the Sydney system with accompanying warnings of the need to boil mains water.

Other concerns fuelling bottled water growth are chlorination and flouridation and the state not of the water itself but the reticulation pipes. As well as the statistics, the boom is visible. Specialist water shops have opened in all major cities and bottled water has become as much a staple as breakfast cereals on supermarket shelves.


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