'Ethical' water brands may boost flagging UK sales

By Neil Merrett

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Bottled water, Zenith

Bottled water manufacturers that attempt to show a more caring side
of the business are defying an overall slump for the product in the
UK market, according to new research.

So-called 'ethical brands', which pledge a portion of their sales or profits to improving sustainability or quality within the water supplies of developing countries, have doubled their sales volume on the UK market, according to segment analyst Zenith International. With the bottled water industry across the globe coming under increasing criticism from environmental organisations and even government over its environmental impact, ethical brands could offer a new way of targeting consumers. Thirsty Planet, One by Global Ethics, Belu and Frank are all examples of populer 'ethical brands', Zenith said. Beyond the focus on developing markets, some bottled water makers found themselves focusing providing charitable assistance within the UK market itself. Manufacturers provided 55m litres of their products to UK households, which had been left no access to clean water following severe flooding during last summer, Zenith said. While the poor summer weather was identified as key reason for an overall four per cent decline in UK sales volumes to 2,185m litres in 2007, ethical brands are expected to become a major driver in the segment in the future, Zenith said. Gary Roethenbaugh, Zenith's market intelligence director, said that by supporting causes both in their domestic and foreign markets, bottled water groups were presenting a new way to target customers. "Despite such a disappointing summer, the role of bottled water in emergency situations and the surge in ethical waters highlighted new areas of consumer resonance,"​ he stated. Overall, sales of retail sized bottled waters fell overall at a slower rate in 2007 than the previous year, declining by 3.5 per cent to 1,785m litres, Zenith said. The analyst also noted declines in the water cooler segment, with annual consumption falling by 30m litres. In the combined market for the products, still water continued to dominate UK demand with an 86.8 per cent share of the market, according to the analyst. Of the UK market, Danone and Nestle posted a 28 per cent fall in their combined market share following the divestment of Danone's Eden Springs brand. Princes soft drinks, Highland Spring and Greencore Mineral Water rounded out the top five UK bottled water makers, which represented 56.8 per cent of all sales in the market during 2007, according to the analyst. Roethenbaugh said that despite overall sales declines and a growing number of beverage options, bottled water was still a popular product amongst consumers, due to its perceived health benefits. "Bottled water's purity and zero calorie virtues should continue to drive the market forward,"​ he stated. UK bottled water consumption was still found to be behind the Western European average of 110 litres per person, according to Zenith. However, the analyst said it expected three to four per cent growth for sales of the product in the next few years, pushing volumes to 2.6bn litres by 2012.

Related topics: Markets, Soft Drinks & Water

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