Consumers Still Thirst for Bottled Water

The category boasts healthy growth into 2021.

September 24, 2021

Bottled Sparkling Water

ALEXANDRIA, Va.—Bottled water sales continue to grow post pandemic after strong growth in 2020. In the 52 weeks ended Aug. 8, the bottled water category increased 8.8% in dollar sales in U.S. grocery, drug, mass market, convenience, military and select club and dollar retailers, according to Chicago-based Information Resources Inc. (IRI). Bottled water even outsold carbonated soda drinks (CSD) for the fifth consecutive year in 2020.

An especially bright spot of the bottled water category is the flavored, sparkling and fortified water segment. Sparkling water is a top competitor for the CSD category, growing 13.7% in dollar sales during the 52 weeks ended Aug. 8, IRI data indicate.

According to Caleb Bryant, associate director of food and drink reports for Chicago-based Mintel, the segment isn’t saturated yet, as consumers gravitate toward its variety of flavors and its “healthier-for-you” perception.

Within the bottled water category, consumers have a choice between private label and premium, functional waters, and according to IRI data, private label was the top-selling “brand” in the convenience/PET still water segment during the 52 weeks ended Aug. 8. Twenty-one percent of consumers purchase enhanced functional waters, fortified with ingredients like electrolytes and protein, while 11% purchase alkaline water, according to Bryant. (Don’t miss the private label trends education session at this year’s NACS Show.)

However, 2020 left the bottled water category with missed bottled water occasions such as airport and car travel, youth sports and music festivals, which depressed the category, according to Bryant.

“Over the coming years, the industry is likely to return to slow and consistent growth as socioeconomic restrictions that were originally implemented to curb the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic are retracted,” said Gavin Ross, team lead and senior analyst for IBISWorld, New York.

Check out NACS Research data on enhanced water in the NACS Magazine July issue’s By the Numbers. See how it performed compared to bottled water, juice, iced tea and CSDs (hint: really well) and what top three enhanced water brands had the highest increase in sales growth.

Register to attend the 2021 NACS Show October 5-8 at McCormick Place in Chicago and take advantage of the education sessions on category management, including these sessions developed by retailers for retailers: