‘Bottled water is America’s favorite drink!’ Bottled water takes top spot in US

By Rachel Arthur contact

- Last updated on GMT

Bottled water: health concerns prompt healthy growth - but convincing consumers of its sustainability credentials will be a key challenge. Pic:getty/diegocervo
Bottled water: health concerns prompt healthy growth - but convincing consumers of its sustainability credentials will be a key challenge. Pic:getty/diegocervo
Bottled water is the No.1 beverage product in the US (by volume) for the second year running, while carbonated soft drinks sales continue to decline, according to new figures from the International Bottled Water Association (IBWA) and Beverage Marketing Corporation (BMC).

Bottled water grew to 13.7 billion gallons in 2017, a 7% increase over the previous year. Sales now total $18.5bn, an increase of 8.8%.

Carbonated soft drink sales decreased for the thirteenth consecutive year, according to the figures. 

The distance between bottled water and carbonated soft drinks continues to widen as consumers increasingly choose bottled water instead of soda,” ​says the IBWA, which represents US and international bottlers, distributors and suppliers. 

Bottled water sales surpassed soda sales in the US for the first time​ the previous year. 

Shift away from CSDs

America’s per capita consumption of bottled water has now exceeded 42 gallons, pulling ahead of CSDs (37.5 gallons).

And BMC predicts that bottled water will reach over 50 gallons per capita within the coming years.

The continued rise of bottled water is fueled by a shift away from CSDs towards healthier options – nearly all Americans (94%) believe that bottled water is a healthier choice than soft drinks, while 93% say they would like to see it as an option in all retail situations, according to a Harris Poll conducted for IBWA.

Even though the CSD category has been increasing its focus on lower calorie drinks, consumers remain wary of artificial sweeteners, says the IBWA.

“Amid worries about obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and other health matters, bottled water’s lack of calories and artificial ingredients, convenience, and refreshing taste attracts health-conscious consumers,” ​said Joe Doss, CEO and president, IBWA.

Consumer shifts

In America, 63% of consumers say bottled water (still and/or sparkling) is among their most preferred beverages, followed by coffee (62%). Meanwhile 58% say soft drinks (regular and/or diet) are among their most preferred drinks.

Nearly all Americans (94 %) believe that bottled water is a healthier choice than soft drinks, and 93% say bottled water should be available wherever drinks are sold.

Source: Harris Poll, commissioned by IBWA

Other factors that see consumers turn to bottled water include convenience and refreshment, and the assurance of a safety and quality, according to the IBWA.  

Sparkling growth

All segments of US bottled water grew in 2017, with sparkling water showing the most impressive growth.  

Domestic non-sparkling water was up 5.5%; domestic sparkling increased 27.5%; imported water increased 9.2%; and home and office delivery (3 and 5-gallon size bottles) increased 1.3%.

Industry challenges

As concerns about environmental impact grow across the F&B industry - with plastic bottles often coming under particular scrutiny - the IBWA champions efforts made across the bottled water sector. 

It says that the bottled water industry has the lowest environmental footprint of any packaged water; and that the sector continues to use a variety of measures to reduce its impact.

For example, a number of companies use recycled plastic (rPET) in their bottles, with some using up to 100% rPET. Meanwhile, it points out that the packaging required for bottled water is less than that required for the same volume of CSDs, as soda needs a thicker container due to its carbonation (9.89 grams vs. 23.9 grams, on average for 16.9-ounce containers).

The current curbside recycling rate for bottled water containers in the US stands at 53.85%. The IBWA highlights that plastic bottles and caps are 100% recyclable and says the industry continues to look at ways to strengthen recycling efforts.

Meanwhile, it champions the efficiency of production compared to other beverage categories.

“Bottled water uses only 0.011% of all water used in the US," ​said Doss.

“Bottled water also has the lowest water and energy use ratios of all packaged beverages. On average, it takes only 1.32 liters of water to produce 1 liter of finished bottled water (including the liter of water consumed), which is the lowest water-use ratio of any packaged beverage product.

“And on average, only 0.24 mega joules of energy are used to produce 1 liter of bottle of water.” 

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