Bottled water in West Europe continues to demonstrate enduring growth despite a strong tradition and apparent degree of maturity. The global economic slowdown has had an appreciable impact on most European markets, although its effect has been more acute in some countries than others. Despite uncertainty within the world economy, a downturn in tourism in a post September 11 world and unremarkable weather last year, European bottled water consumption managed to grow solidly in 2002.
The European bottled water market continues to outperform soft drinks as a whole, as consumers embrace the convenient hydration message that bottled water confers. A surge in water cooler volumes and flurry of activity in the water cooler industry has undoubtedly benefited bottled water overall. PET has also made a very strong showing in markets that have traditionally been dominated by glass packaging. Functional bottled waters are making strong gains, as are sweetened flavoured waters in certain key markets. These areas are considered a distraction by certain bottled water purists, who point to soaring water cooler volumes and continuing packaging innovation as the key impetus for the European market. These certainly remain exciting and challenging times for European bottled water.