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Pandemic hits bottled water sales

Home Manufacturing & Processing Food & Beverage Pandemic hits bottled water sales

BOTTLED water has snatched the lion’s share of the non-alcoholic beverage market in the United States, surpassing the record that carbonated soft drinks previously held.

In South Africa, bottled water’s share – or ‘packaged water’s share’ as it is referred to in local legislation – is far less with it comprising just 8.6% of the entire non-alcoholic ready-to-drink (NARTD) beverage market.

That’s according to consulting firm BMi Research, which said that despite a positive compound annual growth rate for volume sold over the last five years from 2016 to 2021, packaged water’s percentage volume contribution to the total NARTD market has waned because of the strong growth of ready-to-drink energy options.

And, as with so many sectors, consumption was impacted by the pandemic.

Summarising South Africa’s packaged water category pre-lockdowns and restrictions, BMi Research said increased demand had increased the category’s contribution to the overall NARTD beverage industry over the last 10 to 15 years.

This demand was believed to be primarily driven by bottled water’s lower average selling price when compared to other NARTD beverages, an ever-improving number of quality brands available in South Africa, increased consumer knowledge and comfort around consuming packaged water to the extent that it had become a lifestyle product, convenience particularly for active consumers and perceived health benefits of consuming packaged waters as opposed to other NARTD beverages, and finally some concern about the quality of municipal drinking water.

Interestingly, demand for packaged water was only briefly deterred by selected instances of drought over the last few years.

Consumption of packaged water was unfortunately under pressure during COVID, as was consumption of other NARTD beverages. This was attributed to the fact that consumers were largely at home, not in their cars, not training nor exercising and generally not active while restrictions on consumer out-of-home activities, like eating out, removed prominent packaged water consumption occasions. And, when at home, consumers opted to consume tap water, rather than purchase packaged beverages, as consumer spending decreased during Covid.

With easing of restrictions towards the end of 2021, many expected the consumption of packaged waters and other beverages to increase again. However, the relatively colder and wetter end to the year – a popular consumption period, again negated packaged water sales along with those of other NARTD beverages, says BMi Research.

On the positive front, it anticipates demand for packaged water to be positive over the medium to longer term. Here, it believes the above-mentioned pre-Covid drivers, along with an ever-improving local economy as consumer spending improves will drive sales.

“This is good news for our industry,” said SANBWA CEO Charlotte Metcalf. “Our members look forward to improving their sales to a point where they regain – and then exceed – their previous share of the NARTD beverage market.

“When they are ready to dig into their pockets and purses to purchase bottled water again, SANBWA urges consumers to reach for a brand displaying the SANBWA logo because all SANBWA members adhere to SANBWA’s world class bottled water standard.”

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