One of the biggest stories from last year’s Top Products Survey was the phenomenal growth enjoyed by bottled water. This year the picture is no different, with total category value growth of 11.2% actually beating last year’s 10.6%. Sales of branded products significantly outstripped own-label offerings, with some of the category’s largest brands posting double-digit growth.

According to Andrea McQuaid, head of brand marketing at Highland Spring, there’s one major factor behind bottled water’s recent meteoric rise: the war on sugar. “Health continues to be a key trend driving the market, as consumers are becoming more and more aware of the impact of hidden sugar in beverages,” she says. “Naturally sourced bottled water is the only drink on shelves with no calories, no sugar, no preservatives and no additives, making it the healthiest choice available.”

Adam Jones, category development manager at Nestlé Waters, also credits retailers for improving sales. “Consumers have been switching to water from other soft drinks categories as well as adding bottled water to their drinks portfolio,” he says. “Savvy retailers have also been quick to take advantage of this opportunity by increasing visibility of water at the front of stores.”

In the case of squashes and cordials, the reverse is true. After a strong showing in 2013, with value sales up 4.5% and volumes dipping marginally, the category looks to have been a real casualty of the war on sugar, with volumes slumping 6.4% and sales down 3.8% . Brands suffered most, with Robinsons enduring a 4.1% drop, despite having enjoyed positive sales growth of 1.3% last year.

squashwater tpt

But manufacturers have not taken the bad news lying down. The biggest weapon in the armoury of those squash and cordial brands doing well appears to be NPD, with Ribena launching a new Tropical Mango & Lime RTD variant and Vimto launching Vimto Squeezy to cash in on the rapidly growing water enhancers sub-category. The latter also unveiled new seasonal packaging in October to promote Vimto squash as a hot drink in a bid to boost year-round consumption and tap into the hot cordials subcategory.

It’s a rapidly expanding area, according to Belvoir Fruit Farms MD Pev Manners. “We’ve already got spiced winter berries, apple plum and cinnamon, honey lemon and ginger and spiced apple and ginger, which are absolutely gorgeous with hot water,” he says. After a stellar year in 2014, Manners promises other really exciting new ideas about expanding the category, which we will reveal next year.”

But bottled water manufacturers are encroaching further and further, with new ideas in emerging areas like flavoured waters.

“Whilst flavoured waters are smaller in value they are enjoying significant growth, making them the rising stars of the category,” says Highland Spring’s McQuaid. “We will see this continue as retailers look for opportunities to extend their soft drinks range and drive profit even further. Flavoured water represents an additional hydration solution for shoppers.”


Top launch: Ballygowan Britvic

Until February, bottled-water brand Ballygowan was one of Ireland’s best-kept secrets. But to mark its 30th anniversary, Britvic unleashed it on to UK consumers.

The launch also signalled the first piece of activity from Britvic to drive bottled water growth since shutting its British springs.

“The launch of Ballygowan natural mineral water into Great Britain reflects Britvic’s commitment to this growing sub-segment,” says Jonathan Gatward, global category and capability director at Britvic.