Bottled water is on track to outsell soda by 2017, buoyed by dozens of new high-end waters
Despite some potential downside —cost and over-use of plastic–Americans’ thirst for bottled water just keeps growing, writes the Wall Street Journal, citing a 7% increase in bottled water volume over last year and putting it on track to outsell soda by 2017.
According to industry tracker Beverage Marketing Corp., Nestlé SA (whose water brands include Pure Life and Poland Spring) sold more water than Dr Pepper Snapple Group Inc. sold soda last year, making Nestlé—not Dr Pepper—the No. 3 company in the United States for nonalcoholic beverages, according to Beverage Digest. Between 2000 and 2014, per capita bottled-water consumption more than doubled to 34.02 gallons from 16.74 gallon, while soda fell to 39.92 gallons from 53.17 gallons, according to Beverage Marketing. Retail sales of bottled water totaled $18.82 billion last year, estimates market researcher Euromonitor, compared with $36.87 billion for soda.
There are now hundreds of bottled water brands vying in a market that was nonexistent not that long ago, including the major soda players such as Coke and Pepsi, who together have about a fifth of the bottled water market (Coke with their main brand Dasani and Pepsi with Aquafina). Meanwhile, dozens of smaller, high-end specialty-water brands with names like Real Water, People Water and HappyWater have begun flooding the market. They are backed by investors of all types who are trying to create higher margins with new bottle designs, exotic minerals and elaborate tales of provenance.
Although environmental concerns are an issue for bottled water producers and drinkers in some arenas—at least 18 national parks have prohibited the sale of bottled water and the product is frowned upon on many college campuses, bottled water’s success is flowing right along.
According to the WSJ, some of the increased interest in bottled water may have been stirred up by a 2013 industry-funded study attributing scores of illnesses to tap water. But much of it is being generated by a new consumer obsession: hydration. According to a Mintel poll late last year, 29% of bottled water drinkers said they would “feel strange” not always having water with them. However, some scientific studies indicate Americans may be going overboard. The Institute of Medicine estimates women and men need about 2.7 and 3.7 liters of water a day, respectively, but that includes water from other sources like soda or coffee and 20% from food. It says fluid intake prompted by thirst and drinking at meals is usually sufficient.