According to its recently published Global Bottled Water Report, the worldwide market grew 2 per cent despite the combined impact of the recession and growing environmental concerns.
As bottled water has little hope of competing with tap water on price, Canadean said many commentators felt the category would be particularly vulnerable in the recession.
This analysis has been borne out to some extent by the data in North America and Western Europe.
Canadean said that in Western Europe, which accounts for almost 30 per cent of global volumes, France and Spain were responsible for much of the decline in sales last year.
In Spain, the recession caused a slump in on-premise sales, while in France, the economic downturn, environmental concerns, and tap water campaigns all put downward pressure on consumption levels.
A similar mixture of factors was observed in North America, which dropped from double digit growth into decline last year.
Exacerbating the effects of recession and green consumer trends were bans on packaged water in some government offices and moves to implement bottled water taxes.
Making up for falling sales in Europe and North America was the strength of demand in Asia, and in particular China. According to the Canadean quarterly beverage tracker, the Chinese bottled water category jumped 18 per cent in the third quarter of 2009.
This growth was driven by continued high economic growth, hot weather in certain parts of China, and intense price competition.
Canadean said the country has helped the bottled water category ride out the worst of the global recession although the market research firm does not expect pre-recession growth rates to return.
It anticipates that the market will settle down to a growth rate of 5 per cent after 2009, and that despite environmental trends all regions will register growth in 2010. Canadean said this will be encouraging for the water industry but it is a marked slow down on the 7 per cent growth seen in 2007 and the 9.5 per cent growth of 2006.