Italian food and dairy multinational, Parmalat is to invest an initial 200-billion lire to re-enter the lucrative international bottled water sector.

A decade ago, Parmalat pulled out of the mineral water business after its Monte Bianco line failed to show any profit. But times have changed and the sector is now booming and according to a new report by Mineracqua, the National Association of Mineral Water, consumption in 2000 stood at 160 litres per capita and volume was at 9.5 billion litres, up 4% over 1999.

Parmalat now plans to extend its Aqua Parmalat water brand into Russia, the Far East and South America. It may also offer its new product to North America through its 140-billion lire joint venture with Canadian company, Eaux Vive Harricana.

The company also plans a 15-billion lire advertising campaign to promote its latest venture in Italy.

By billing Aqua Parmalat as a "bottled drinking water", devoid of claims, as with most mineral waters, of "therapeutic" effects, the company hopes to capture 3% - 4% of the drinking water sector, which grosses an estimated 5,500 billion lire a year.

Parmalat will also have the edge on its competitors with logistics, by distributing Aqua Parmalat via its established milk and dairy network.

Mineracqua puts exports at 900 million litres with an annual growth of 50%.

Hilmi Toros