One of the big activities of last year was the entry of Irn-Bru maker AG Barr into the market with its £15m acquisition of Strathmore from Constellation Brands.
The company is reviewing its full range and getting ready to make its mark. "We will relaunch the brand before the summer with a £2m package creating a presence in the market," says Jonathan Kemp, AG Barr commercial director.
The Leith Agency, which creates its Irn-Bru advertising, has been commissioned to work on Strathmore. NPD and special tactical promotion packs will also feature in this year's plans.
Most innovation in the water category will be through marketing, says Asda soft drinks buyer Jon Cummings. "You can innovate with flavours but there's not a lot you can do with still water. Innovation will come in the way water companies communicate water's health benefits."
Strategies in the marketing of bottled water are changing as consumers want more than just the pure benefits of bottled water, says David Patmore, marketing director for Princes Soft Drinks.
Sport is a perfect tie-in, he says, and Princes Aqua-Pura has just signed a three-year contract with UK Athletics. The brand, which recently added a sports-cap bottle and smaller pack-size for children, is also the official bottled water of the Great Run series.
And Highland Spring marketers must be delighted to have bagged Britain's hottest young sportstar, Andy Murray, who comes from Dunblane - 10 miles from the company's bottling plant headquarters. The logo will now be shown on Murray's T-shirt after the brand signed up to become his exclusive drinks sponsor.
But it's not just sport that's important for water, says Patmore: "Water has become one of the latest fashion items with younger consumers, aged between 15 and 34. It's hard to see young people walking down the street not clutching a bottle of water and it's in manufacturers' interests to keep that trend growing."
Ty Nant sponsored the recent Brit Awards as well as last year's MOBO awards. Associating the brand with the likes of The Killers, The Scissor Sisters and R&B stars Lemar and Jamelia further enhances Ty Nant's reputation as the water of choice among trend-setters and opinion formers, believes Laura Dodds, Ty Nant's brand manager.
Meanwhile, Danone Water's Evian is the key sponsor for Kylie Minogue's exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum. Promotions by Evian will offer free access to the star's famous gold hot pants and other revealing outfits worn throughout her career.
Packaging can enhance the association with fashion, says Pure Blue's managing director Richard Lawrie. "Quality branded products are becoming more sophisticated, such as our Pure Blue Water with inspirational water images - The Surfer, The Freediver and Blue Wave - visible through the water."
Pure Blue is reporting strong sales in the south east of England after its initial launch in Cornwall in 2005, which bodes well for charity as 10% of its profits go to good causes.
Global Ethics goes one step further. All profits from the sales of its One brand go to well-building programmes in Africa. Year-on-year sales of One are up 145%, with profits up 203%, enabling the company to install a new water pump every two weeks.
Global Ethics managing director Duncan Goose believes there is scope to grow the brand sufficiently over the next two years to allow a new water pump to be installed every day.
As part of the sales drive, One has launched a new 750ml sports product and a 500ml multipack.
Brecon Beacons Natural Waters, whose Brecon Carreg brand grew 15% year-on-year, said its big innovation was promotional activity with the TXT 2 WIN packs, giving consumers the chance to win a holiday.
The company says it is at the forefront of biodegradable bottle technology in the UK, as it innovates to keep on the right side of the green lobby, according to Gill Bullock, marketing manager.
And there's another novel growth area for bottled water. Apparently, demand is not just growing from humans, but from dogs and cats too.
Research indicates that 11% of pet owners in the UK now give their animals bottled mineral water to drink.
Special Waters has launched Water Cat and Water Dog - flavoured natural spring waters with added natural active ingredients.
Lovers of guinea pigs, rabbits and hamsters will soon be able to treat their pets, too, as further product developments are in the pipeline. n