Apr 06, 2006

U.K. Bottled Water Market Set to Accelerate Again

U.K. bottled water sales rose 5.3% to 2,170 million liters in 2005, translating into almost £1,600 million of retail value, according to the 15th annual UK Bottled Water report from specialist consultancy Zenith Intl.

2005 saw a return to growth following disappointing results during poor summer weather in 2004. Still water in single serving bottles for on-the-go consumption and multi-pack formats in U.K. supermarkets again provided the main impetus, advancing by 8%. Including volume through water coolers, still water claimed an overall 87% share. Natural mineral water remains the preferred water type, adding 52 million liters in 2005 to account for 66% of the total.

“The merits of proper hydration and the benefits of bottled water to health and wellbeing, especially in the face of increasing concerns about obesity, continue to gain recognition amongst consumers,” said Zenith Research Director Gary Roethenbaugh. “Despite phenomenal growth over the past two decades, more consumers are turning to bottled water as their favored soft drink choice at a steady pace.”

Figures from consumer research company BMRB Intl.'s TGI survey have shown a progressive acceptance of bottled water by the British public. The percentage of adults aged 15 and above drinking bottled water has jumped from 35% in 2000 to 55% in 2005. The survey also highlights the growing number of male consumers, with the gender divide gradually narrowing.

The fact that women are not the only consumers is becoming increasingly appreciated by bottled water producers, with both the male and youth markets attracting more attention. Britvic launched its youth-oriented Drench at the beginning of 2006, and Nestlé Waters has recently rebranded Vittel, aiming for greater appeal to male consumers. Such moves by major players are a clear sign of seeking new growth from previously underperforming segments of the market.

One area that struggled to keep up was the water cooler sector. The number of coolers installed fell for the first time, while volumes remained static at 435 million liters. Although at first glance these results might appear discouraging, there is a consensus that a restructuring process, started in 2003 after the entry of leading European distributors Nestlé Waters and Danone Springs of Eden, is now nearing completion, and that the U.K. water cooler industry holds considerable potential for further growth.

World market leaders Danone and Nestlé saw their combined share of overall UK consumption dip to 35% in 2005 as a consequence of the slowing water cooler market. Meanwhile Highland Spring, Princes Soft Drinks and Campsie Spring maintained their positions as the next three largest companies. The top five groups accounted for 63% of total volume.

“There is also a wealth of smaller companies in the industry,” Roethenbaugh said. “As they strive to defend and create niches for themselves, these regional and segment specialists provide an energy to the industry that has undoubtedly helped to drive the whole market forward.”

Zenith believes heightened competition should stimulate greater volume growth in 2006 and beyond. At 36 liters per person, U.K. consumption remains well behind the West European average of more than 100 liters. “If the cooler market can return to former growth levels, and retailers can expand the availability of bottled water in-store, there is no reason why the strong growth seen in bottled water over the past few years should not be sustained, as regular users continue to increase consumption and new consumers enter the market,” Roethenbaugh said.

Over the next five years, Zenith forecasts a resurgence in U.K. sales, rising at an annual rate of 6 to 8% to almost 3,000 million liters by 2010.

The 2006 Zenith Report on U.K. Bottled Water contains 112 pages with a full market commentary, 28 detailed tables and profiles of the top 25 companies.