European sales for flavored and functional waters are buoyant despite environmental controversy surrounding the consumption of bottled water and recent media reports that bottled water is often no different than tap water.

According to a report by market research firm Zenith International published in October and highlighted by the Food Navigator, the European market for flavored and functional water rose 5 percent in 2008.

The rise comes in the wake of increased awareness about the health benefits of keeping well hydrated and concerns of the high calories and sugar content of soft drinks and other beverages, the report says.

Waters claiming to have weight loss or health benefits are experiencing the most demand. And functional water is a growing sector, fueled by new formulations and improved marketing schemes, according to the report.

"Scientific advances in tailoring functional ingredients to beverage-based application have widened the opportunities for functional products," said Gary Roethenbaugh of Zenith International in the Food Navigator.

The report also stated that sales of flavored and functional waters in Eastern European countries grew substantially in 2008, a trend that's likely to continue with the launch of new products.

Meanwhile, back in the West, growth is expected to be driven by investment, innovation, rebranding and repositioning of water as a healthy beverage.