RESEARCH: Water drives Italian packaged drinks

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The Italian market for packaged beverages rose by more than 2% last year, despite the effects of an unusually cold, wet summer, which had a negative impact on both the beer and soft drinks sectors.

According to research from industry analysts, Canadean, overall volumes rose, fuelled mainly by growth in sales of water packaged in non-refillable PET.

Although Italy is already Europe's largest water market and has the world's highest per capita consumption demand, it is expected to rise even further this year, fuelling an overall packaged beverage increase of more than 3%.

Italy is described by Canadean as an "outright non-refillable market", with more than 70% of soft drinks fillings now being sold in non-refillable PET. Refillable glass, principally used for water and to a lesser extent carbonates and beer, accounts for only 13% of all packaged beverage fillings.

In the all important packaged water sector, non-refillable PET holds sway with more than 80% cent of fillings and in carbonates it claims over three quarters, having grown at the expense of both glass and cans. It also accounts for more than 90% of fillings in both of the small but growing still drinks and sports and energy drinks segments. Although laminates remain the most import pack type for juice and nectars, cartons continue to lose volume all round - once again due to heavy competition from PET.

Demand for glass may have fallen in all soft drinks segments, except squash and syrups, but it remains the mainstay packaging for beer. However, once PET bottles for beer become available at affordable prices, glass may come under further pressure says Canadean.

Though non-refillable PET has the major role, other materials still have a part to play and due consideration is being given to environmental issues. Plastic fillings rose by around 4% in 2002, well above the beverage market growth rate and are expected to expand even faster this year. Technical problems in replacing existing materials with PET should be solved by research leading to the development of large multi-serve packs and growing sales volumes - the report points to the importance that PET has had in growing the market for iced tea.

"Italy's major can producers and glass makers will only be able to fend off competition from PET by stressing the specific advantages of their products," said Canadean.

In addition, recycling schemes for all materials are in place and working well. Last year 6.3m tons of packaging materials were recovered, including those used for beverages, of which 5.7m tons were recycled.



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