Bottled water sales have slumped 6% over the past year as people turn away from the once-dominant European brands to British or turn on the taps.

Overall category sales have fallen 6.1% to £576m and 3.8% by volume, reveals the latest IRI data [52w/e 11 July 2009].

Sales of Nestlé Waters' Vittel have nosedived 59.8% to £8.3m and 61.8% in volume, while its other international brand, Perrier, dropped 12.3% to £1.7m.

Danone Waters' market-leading Volvic suffered a 10.6% value slump to £120.6m while volumes slipped 4.5%, and Evian's sales fell 11.6% to £98.4m.

However, Nestlé Waters' Buxton has seen sales jump 12.4% in volume and 22.7% in value to £46.5m and its other British-sourced water, Nestlé Pure Life (NPL), has notched up £3.2m sales since its launch last October.

British consumers were increasingly reluctant to buy non-British brands, said Jamie Feely, bottled water buyer at Tesco.

"The traditionally dominant European brands are facing heavy competition from locally sourced bottled waters," he said.

Buxton and NPL were leading the way in encouraging consumers to switch to British brands, he added.

"Through an effective promotion calendar and careful management of their range, Nestlé Waters has brought new customers into the bottled water market, helping to arrest the category sales decline," he said.

Britain was no longer a priority market for Vittel, confirmed Rebecca White, head of marketing at Nestlé Waters. The company had slashed the number of Vittel SKUs by 60% over the past two years and focused its attention on the on-the-go market via its 75cl sports cap bottle. Strong sales for Buxton and NPL suggested shoppers found the brands' British provenance more appealing, she agreed.

The bottled water industry needed to market itself more competitively to prevent consumers switching to tap water, added Nestlé Waters' MD, Paolo Sangiorgi. "Maybe we should be able to communicate better we need consumers to know the difference between the two," he said.