NEW YORK – As Americans look for healthy, better-for-you alternatives inside cooler doors, the U.S. bottled water category is growing. New research from Mintel reveals that sales of bottled water increased 6.4% to top $15 billion in 2015, and the firm expects sales to continue growing at a rapid pace through 2020, with projected sales growth of 34.7% for the category, including 75.1% growth for the sparkling/mineral water/seltzer segment.
Consumer attitudes reveal that flavor innovation is driving the category’s success, with nearly half (48%) of bottled water drinkers saying they are partaking in more flavored waters to replace high sugar drinks. Consumption of flavored still bottled water is highest among 18–34 year olds (66% v. 48% of consumers overall), who are also the most likely age demographic to consume still bottled water (93% v. 85% of consumers overall).
Mintel found that there is a wide range of interest in functional attributes for bottled water. More than two in five (43%) consumers are interested in bottled water enhanced with vitamins; another three in 10 agree the ideal bottled water should contain minerals (29%) and energy (29%). When it comes to calorie counting, consumers show a clear preference for zero calorie bottled water (31%) as opposed to less than 100 calorie offerings (13%).
American bottled water drinkers also indicate that the “ideal bottled water” would have no artificial sweeteners, artificial flavors or artificial colors. Further, one quarter of consumers say their ideal bottled water would be GMO-free or organic.
“Bottled water brands benefit from the overarching consumer trend toward more healthful, better-for-you alternatives to unnatural and high-sugar drinks. This has spurred sales growth of bottled water with even greater projected growth over the next five years,” said Elizabeth Sisel, beverage analyst at Mintel. “In the coming years, consumers will likely put even greater value on no artificial ingredients in bottled water.”
While consumers indicate that the overall top purchasing factor is price (62%), the majority of consumers are interested in premium offerings: More than half (53%) of bottled water drinkers prefer to drink premium bottled waters. Furthermore, 39% of consumers agree bottled water is worth the added cost, although half (51%) of consumers are unfamiliar with premium water.
“While price is a major purchasing factor for many consumers, the majority gravitate toward premium water offerings, despite its typically higher cost,” Sisel continued. “To attract the more price conscious consumer, brands should look to incorporate product messaging that justifies a higher price point, as well as communicate the health benefits and sophistication of premium products in order to alleviate any confusion.”
Mintel research also indicates that more than three in four (78%) U.S. bottled water drinkers say they recycle their bottled water packaging, and three quarters (75%) would like to see more reusable bottled water packaging made available.