Driving growth are the healthy connotations, the convenient packaging formats and its compatibility with today's lifestyles, making it a strong rival to other non alcoholic drinks. Last year Well Well Well repositioned its Aqua Pura range to focus more on its health benefits and this year it has strong plans to accelerate growth. "Bottled water is the fastest growing sector to the detriment of other sectors such as tea and coffee," says group marketing manager Jason Williams. "It's forecast to double in size in four to six years, but unless space is found the market cannot grow. Different ways of merchandising are needed such as putting it outside store shopping areas in entrances." The switch from sparkling to still water as consumers' preferred tipple has been quite dramatic with a ratio now of 80:20 for still. Impulse drinking on the move, sports caps which as yet haven't been developed for carbonated water, and water coolers in workplaces are reasons for the switch. Well Well Well claims the impulse sector saw volume and value growth ahead of the retail average growth of 14% and 15%. In volume, independents achieved a 16% rise, forecourts 17% and CTNs 18%. Value growth by outlet was 18% for independents, 21% for forecourts and 23% for CTNs. Ballygowan sells about 60% still, 40% sparkling because, it says, it is a more established brand claiming to retain many consumers who prefer sparkling while at the same time growing its still franchise. National sales manager Paul McDonald says its strength is its premium image. "People enjoy Ballygowan in some of the best restaurants and as a result are confident in using the brand when entertaining at home." Ballygowan has now moved into PET with a new still bottle in 500ml, 1.5 litre and 2 litre sizes. Plans also include increasing availability of glass formats through cash and carries. The sport capped 500ml bottle has captured the imagination of the youth market as the cool to be seen with' product. Most companies have realised that they must have this size. Last year Perrier sparkling water moved into a 500ml PET bottle for the first time to target 20 to 25-year-olds. This month Belgian supplier Spadel is launching its classic Spa Reine still natural mineral water in two sizes: 330ml and 500ml, and an attractive new design. Spadel UK general manager Ian Hall says: "The UK bottled water market is growing rapidly but consumption per head in the UK is still significantly lower than Europe." Barr Soft Drinks' latest addition to Findlays, of which it took full control in January, is a 600ml sports bottle. Tynant, famous for its deep blue and red glass bottles, has introduced a new touchy-feely knobbly PET to attract style gurus looking for a thirst quencher in an attractive, portable pack. General manager, sales and marketing, David Relph says: "Three-quarters of the market is in PET. That's where all the growth is. This is a premium package which should be merchandised in the middle of the PET fixture. It's not super premium like our glass bottles." Tynant is targeting the c-store sector which, admits Relph, for a small company is probably the most difficult to break into because of the big players. But here it will be wooing the same upmarket, affluent on-the-move people associated with the brand. Since San Pellegrino introduced a one litre PET, sales have soared. Distributor Trustin Unimerchants claims 30% of its business is now in one litre six-packs, with no ill effects to its glass format. This year it is majoring on a 500ml PET. Another of San Pellegrino's UK brands is Panna, being relaunched with a new bottle shape and label this year. Pricing, says marketing director Martin Wathes, isn't an issue with these brands. "We want to be priced above certain competitors. These are not designer labels but mainstream upmarket sparkling waters." Own label is still a strong contender in the bottled water market. Hazlewood Mineral Water, which supplies Campsie spring water to the multiples, says it saw an increase in its production last year of 12% to 112 million litres, still water leading the field with 94 million litres in 2001, up 10 million litres year-on-year. A major part of Ben Shaw's business is own label in large bottles but it also supplies the Belgian Chaudfontaine brand. This year it has set its sights on impulse and has just started to develop a network in the south of England to promote products, particularly its Pennine Hills water in 500ml PET in CTNs. The company also has the Fountain Head H2Zero brand mainly sold through C&Cs in the north which it is targeting at the youth market. Danone Waters splashed out £27m on its Evian, Volvic and Danone Activ brands last year and £25m will be spent in 2002. However no support is earmarked for newest arrival Hydra8. Marketing director David Graham says it will open the market up to a wider audience. "It will be a no nonsense spring water from the Brecon Beacons at a lower price," says Graham. Perrier Vittel UK's sponsorship includes the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis championships, the MCC Cricket Challenge and Golf's Ryder Cup via its British Buxton water brand, while Vittel is the official water for the Flora London Marathon for the fourth consecutive year, and Perrier supports the Henley Regatta. Well Well Well's £5m marketing strategy for Aqua Pura includes sponsorship for British athletics and the Jaguar F1 racing team. Ballygowan plays heavily on its Irish heritage and will be sponsoring the Irish Film Festival and the Fleadh open air music festival, both in London. Tynant has taken a more novel approach by marketing its brand through product placing on TV and in films. This, says Tynant's Relph, has worked well. "If you are one of the leading brands you should spend a considerable amount of money to promote them to explain why people should pay a little more for it. For a small brand, it's folly." Danone claims flavoured water accounts for 20% of incremental bottled water growth and is expected to exceed 398 million litres by 2005. It is adding two new flavours to its Volvic Touch of Fruit range ­ pink grapefruit and peach ice tea flavour, the latter on trial in Waitrose. Neptune UK, which distributes Vichy Celestins and Vichy St Yorre believes consumers think about water the same way as they do about wine, and there is great potential for upmarket naturally functional sparkling waters. In April it is launching a water from Italy called Courmayeur, its first non French water which has a high natural calcium content. Highland Spring claims to have had a bumper year. It acquired the Gleneagles Spring Water Company, and the successful launch of its four-pack 1.5 litre sparkling, it says, led to growth in the sparkling sector. Another reason for its success is that while other companies have targeted the youth market, Highland Spring has been busy tackling the children's market through character licensing. The launch of Looney Tunes water in 330ml singles and six-packs was a first for the kids' market. Another company taking the children's route is Trustin Unimerchants which has linked its Iceland Spring brand to the kids movie, Ice Age, due out on March 22. The movie will have a high level of exposure via TCF's £3m consumer campaign and Trustin hopes this will benefit the brand. {{FOCUS SPECIALS }}