Sales of soft drinks drove overall increases in the packaged beverage sector in the Czech Republic last year, which rose by more than 7%.

There were double digit rises in demand for all soft drinks, except juice/nectars and squash/syrups, says a new report from beverage industry analysts Canadean.

Within packaging, non-refillable PET bottles have grown their share of the market and now account for almost two thirds of beer and soft drinks packaging.

In the largest product sector, carbonates, demand rose by more than 12% during 2002.

"Since consumers are buying both for 'on the go' consumption and in bulk, all non-refillable PET sizes contributed to this growth which is predicted to continue at above the average level for packaged beverages this year," said Canadean.

The main victim is refillable glass whose percentage fall in share was almost exactly matched by non-refillable PET's percentage increase. On the other hand both beverage and packaging trends were bucked by the second largest sector: beer. Bottled beer lost a small amount of sales due to strong exports but non-refillable glass showed a healthy increase of 6%. Although can volume was up almost 5% and the trend is expected to continue, the historical popularity of beer sold in crates will help ensure that refillable glass's share will remain strong in the region of four fifths of pack mix.

Packaged water, currently the third largest sector, is expected to supplant beer into second place during the course of this year providing a somewhat marginal boost for PET which already accounts for over 90% of sales. Still packaged water, which represents more than a fifth of water fillings, is sold exclusively in PET at the moment.

Still drinks registered the fastest growth last year with fillings up more than 40%. This was fuelled by many new brands mainly in multivitamin flavours and sold in large non-refillable PET packages. Non-refillable PET now accounts for nearly 70% of pack mix. Strong growth is expected due to the plethora of local brands, competitive pricing and convenience.

Also bucking the trend, despite falling sales, the syrup segment of squash/syrups remains substantial thanks to a loyal following in the lower income group. 100-cl refillable glass is gaining with the upward trend aided by an expanding number of DOB's.

Canadean predicts that PET's rise is likely to be unabated for the foreseeable future, since apart from the brewers, the beverage industry has heavily invested in non-refillable PET technology since the mid 1990s, thus making plastic a widely used and viable material for non-refillable packs. Refillable glass will continue to keep a strong presence, entirely due to its traditional role in beer and mineral water packaging, the decline of which has been halted by the new packaging law introduced in January 2002 requiring supermarkets to have returnable facilities.