According to the 2004 West Europe Sports Drinks report from drinks consultancy Zenith International, issued to coincide with the opening of the 2004 Olympic Games, West Europe's sports drink market broke the €1,000m barrier in 2003, rising in volume by 27% to 477m litres.

"More athletes are using sports drinks to improve their performance and the Olympics should help ensure double figure growth again in 2004," commented Zenith research director Gary Roethenbaugh.

Germany is the leading national market, with a 26% volume share, followed by Italy on 19% and the UK on 15%. The Netherlands has the highest consumption per person, with Olympic host Greece lagging well behind the overall average. PepsiCo's Gatorade is the brand leader, with 15% of total volume. Coca-Cola's Powerade, however, is rapidly catching up, placing second in 2003 on 12%, narrowly beating GlaxoSmithKline's Lucozade Sport.

Hypotonic sports drinks have gained most momentum in the past two years, more than doubling their share to 20%. This reflects a trend towards less calorific, low carbohydrate products, the growing appeal of sports drinks for female consumers and the rising number of people seeing sport as a means to lose weight. Nevertheless, isotonic drinks still led the field on 73%, while hypertonic drinks took up the remaining 7%.

Larger pack sizes are also contributing to market growth, with 50cl PET bottles responsible for 62% of volume sales, followed by 75cl and 60cl PET reaching a combined 19%.

Zenith foresees continuing strong growth over the next five years, taking total West European sports drinks consumption past 750m litres by 2008. "Greater product choice together with increasing consumer health awareness bode well for the future, but smaller brands risk being marginalised unless they focus on effectively communicating their benefits," Gary Roethenbaugh concluded.