Bottled Water No. 1 Beverage in America

The gap continues to widen between soda and bottled water.

June 04, 2018

ALEXANDRIA, Va. – Bottled water is the No. 1 beverage product in the United States, by volume, for a second year in a row, according to the International Bottled Water Association (IBWA) and the Beverage Marketing Corporation (BMC). Bottled water volume grew to 13.7 billion gallons in 2017, a 7% increase over the previous year.

“Bottled water’s rocket-like rise in popularity coincides with pronounced shifts in consumer preferences for refreshment and rehydration. As the quintessential portable and affordable beverage, bottled water introduces new usage occasions and habits. Suitable for consumption at any time of the day or night, and not necessarily in need of being kept ice-cold, bottled water simply is the preferred beverage not only for consumers aiming to reduce caloric intake or lessen artificial sweetener usage but also for consumers of all kinds,” said Michael C. Bellas, BMC chairman and CEO, in a press release.

The distance between bottled water and carbonated soft drinks continues to widen as consumers increasingly choose bottled water instead of soda. Carbonated soft drink sales decreased for the 13th consecutive year, according to the most recent numbers from BMC.

Bottled water sales now total $18.5 billion, an increase of 8.8%. Per capita consumption exceeds 42 gallons of bottled water, a 6.2% increase. Meanwhile, the average annual intake of carbonated soft drinks has slipped to 37.5 gallons, BMC statistics show. Beverage Marketing predicts bottled water will climb higher than 50 gallons per capita within just a few more years.

Within the bottled water category, all segments grew in 2017. Domestic nonsparkling water increased 5.5%, while domestic sparkling jumped 27.5%. Imported water rose 9.2%, and home and office delivery (3- and 5-gallon size bottles) accelerated 1.3%.

“Healthy, convenient and safe, bottled water is America’s favorite packaged water for many reasons,” said Joe Doss, IBWA president and CEO. “Research and polling indicate people are continuing to make the switch from other packaged drinks to bottled water.”

A Harris Poll conducted for IBWA found more than three in five Americans (63%) say bottled water (still and/or sparkling) is among their most preferred beverages, followed by coffee (62%). Fewer Americans (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.

“Amid worries about obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and other health matters, bottled water’s lack of calories and artificial ingredients, convenience, and refreshing taste attract health-conscious consumers,” said Doss. “As some consumers are becoming wary of artificial sweeteners, they are abandoning diet offerings, as well as regular soda, and instead are switching to bottled water.”

For specific metrics on bottled water’s industry performance—and how the rest of the packaged beverage category is faring—check out the soon-to-be-released NACS State of the Industry Report.  Order your copy today.