A drinks category in robust health

Trend towards lower-calorie products benefits bottled water

• More people than ever before are opting for healthier alternatives when dining out.

DEMAND for healthy alternatives is gathering pace in the on-trade, and this is said to be having a knock-on effect on sales of bottled water.
According to research commissioned by the British Soft Drinks Association, bottled water sales now account for 19.3% of all soft drinks sales in the UK.
Carol Saunders, head of marketing at Highland Spring Group, attributed this growth to consumers’ increasing focus on health.
“This increasing focus on healthier drinking choices has benefited the bottled water category,” said Saunders.
“Bottled water is the biggest growth contributor in total soft drinks, and we predict volumes will hit around 3.8 billion litres by 2020.”
This was reinforced by research from Clearly Drinks, the firm behind flavoured water brand Perfectly Clear, which found that 70% of 18 to 40 year-olds were concerned about the poor availability and visibility of sugar-free drinks in outlets.
“The backlash against unhealthy products resulted in the decline of several food and drink categories in 2016, with sugar-laden drinks suffering as a result,” said the firm’s commercial director, Maurice Newton.
And operators needn’t shy away from offering a more premium bottled water range that offers real provenance, firms told SLTN.
Adrian Troy of AG Barr, the firm behind Strathmore Water, said: “Provenance and product benefits are becoming increasingly important to consumers, particularly in relation to water. People are not only looking for water brands they know and trust, they are also increasingly conscious about the source of the water, which reinforces the provenance message.”
He added that bottled water should be treated similarly to any other soft drink, “served in a way that will enhance the customer experience”.
Troy suggested serving bottled water chilled with a slice of lemon or lime.
Saunders, of Highland Spring Group, agreed and added that offering glass bottled water over tap water can add to the “premium experience of non-drinking guests”.
Visibility is also key, said Saunders. She urged operators to place their bottled water brands “in high visibility areas”.
“Also key for the on-trade is a strong water menu, naming the still and sparkling water, so consumers can make a choice based on provenance and quality that they enjoy, in the same way they would a wine or other beverages,” she said.