Volume sales of bottled water grew 9% in 2016 reaching 12.8bn gallons, translating to 39 gallons of bottled water per person compared to average soft drink consumption of 38.5 gallons per person, according to BMC data. Volumes of soda consumption have been declining for the past 11 years, when per capita consumption came in at 50 gallons in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
A Harris Poll conducted for IBWA also found that 86% of American consumers purchase bottled water on a regular basis, reflecting a clear consumer shift of choosing packaged beverages based on health and convenience.
Evolution of bottled water consumption
Packaged in green glass bottles, Perrier sparkling mineral water was one of the first bottled water brands to hit the US market in 1977. The invention of PET plastic in 1989 made bottled water a lightweight and cheaper way to hydrate and Coca-Cola and PepsiCo entered the market soon after with Dasani and Aquafina brands.
BMC data shows bottled water volume grew every year from 1977 to 2016, with the exception of small declines in 2008 and 2009.
“Bottled water effectively reshaped the beverage marketplace,” Michael C. Bellas, chairman and CEO of BMC, said.
“Where once it would have been unimaginable to see Americans walking down the street carrying plastic bottles of water, or driving around with them in their cars’ cup holders, now that’s the norm.”
Environmental footprint of bottled water
The environmental footprint of bottled water is smaller than any other packaged beverage, according to IBWA president Joe Doss, with some companies producing 100% recyclable PET bottles.
“When it comes to overall water use, the bottled water industry is actually a small and efficient water user. Bottled water uses only 0.011% of all water used in the United States,” he said.
The recycling rate for single-serve PET plastic bottled water containers has more than doubled in the past 10 years to 35.4%, and makes up 3.3% of all beverage containers that end up in landfills.
In addition, between 2000 and 2014, the average weight of a 16.9-ounce (half-liter) PET plastic bottle has declined 51%. This has resulted in a savings of 6.2bn lbs of PET resin since 2000.