Global sales of alternative waters increased by 21 percent in 2016 to more than $2.7 billion, according to a new report from Zenith Global, London.

In its report titled “2017 Global Alternative Waters,” the market research firm states that volume has been driven by the trend toward healthy hydration as consumers seek alternatives to sugar-sweetened soft drinks. The majority of value came from North and South America, where sales of coconut water and maple water are the strongest. By 2020, the market is forecast to double in size to reach $5.4 billion, Zenith projects.

Coconut water dominates the alternative waters market, accounting for 96 percent of volume and 86 percent of value in 2016. In contrast to other plant waters, where there are numerous small and local players, the coconut water segment has three major global leaders: The Coca-Cola Co. with Zico and Innocent; PepsiCo with O.N.E., Kero Coco and Naked; and All Market with Vita Coco.

"Asia Pacific and South America are expected to be the fastest growth markets for coconut water. Both have high unpackaged coconut water consumption and thus particular scope for packaged coconut water," said Portia Rifat, Zenith senior market analyst, in a statement. "The much smaller maple water segment is projected to triple in size to 2020. North America offers the greatest potential for innovation in natural flavors and organic sourcing. The best prospects for birch water are in West Europe.”

Zenith forecasts that the global market volume for alternative waters will approach 1,900 million liters by 2020, benefiting from increasing sales in both the mainstream and premium markets. The main opportunities for brands in the alternative waters market are identified as providing premium, craft, organic and not-from-concentrate plant waters, it states.