As calorie-counters ditch the pop, bottled water’s booming. But with soft drinks fighting back and getting healthier, for how long?

Bottled water suppliers – at least those who don’t also supply soft drinks – must raise a glass every time a politician or campaigner utters the words ‘sugar tax’.

Health, and particularly a desire to move away from sugary drinks, is encouraging Brits to splash out in a big way both on plain and flavoured products. And the mooted tax on sugary drinks would further play into the water industry’s hands.

Not that it needs any help. While cutbacks in consumer spending have brought volume declines to many categories, take-home sales of water have soared by 10.4% – or 83 million litres – in the past year, with value up 9.4% to £312.9m [Kantar Worldpanel 52 w/e 23 December 2012]. Factor in impulse outlets and the total market is worth £688.1m [SymphonyIRI 52w/e 8 December 2012].

The prospect of water sales suddenly drying up would seem to be a slim one. But soft drinks have been improving their health credentials of late, as exemplified by Coca-Cola’s reformulation of Sprite, and you don’t have to cast your mind back far to recall the antibottled/ pro tap water brigade arguing it was an expensive, environmentally unfriendly con. So will water suppliers still be drinking to the category’s success this time next year?…