The functional soft drinks market in Western Europe has seen slight growth in the last five years, according to a recent report.

The 2007 West Europe Functional Soft Drinks report from drinks consultancy Zenith International, released late last week, highlighted that the region's functional soft drinks market was up by 6% last year, to around 4.45bn litres. The rise signified a 40% leap on the 3.17bn litres recorded in 2001.

In value terms, the market rose from EUR8.5bn (US$11.57bn) in 2001 to around EUR13.6bn in 2006, with average consumption across all 16 countries in Western Europe rising to 11.2 litres per person in 2006, up from 8.1 litres in 2001.

"The main driving forces behind functional soft drinks growth are consumers' increasingly proactive attitudes towards health, in the context of rising concerns about obesity and an ageing population," said Zenith research director Gary Roethenbaugh. "The sector is now attracting the interest of beverage multinationals, entrepreneurs and small businesses alike, all of which are increasingly recognising added functionality as a means of enlivening mainstream products and responding to changing demand, while simultaneously boosting profit margins."

The report noted that the nutraceutical segment is growing quickly, albeit from a relatively low base, with volume up 17% in 2006. Sports and energy drinks also demonstrated double-digit growth, up 11% on average in the year. Enriched beverages are the largest group, accounting for over 70% of combined volume in 2006. Sports drinks came second on 15%, followed by energy drinks on 10% and finally nutraceuticals on 4%.

The UK and Germany accounted for a combined 66% of total volume in the region, with Italy, Spain and France completing the top five.

Zenith forecast that, by 2011, functional soft drinks volumes across West Europe will have risen by a further 30%, equating to at least an extra 1.3bn litres.