Bottled water is a success story with a great future still ahead of it, says Liam McLoughlin The botted water market in the UK is still relatively young and dynamic ­ and has the highest growth in the soft drinks sector. A range of European and national directives control the definition and production of the product. Under current regulations spring water is defined as water drawn from any source (including underground water). Table water may originate from more than one source or a non-underground source and can include the public water supply. Within these product categories the bottled water market segments into still and sparkling waters ­ with still water accounting for over 60% of UK sales. Karen Coyle, marketing manager at Ballygowan, says bottled water tends to be an adult product chiefly drunk by 18 to 30-year-olds and is classed as a soft drink under European law. "The current ones are more like soft drinks and we would advocate quite strongly that they are marketed on the soft drinks fixture," Coyle says. Michael Carey, md of Premier Waters, maker of Volvic and Evian, says the projected growth for bottled water is "around 10% per annum, which we believe is probably a bit conservative. "It is a more seasonal market than any other soft drink," he says. "A lot of bottled water is consumed on the move so it's purchased from c-stores or forecourts. The peak months have nearly three times the sales of the lowest and there is a high responsiveness to weather. The only time recently there was no growth in the sector was when there was a bad summer two years ago and demand stayed static." Chiltern Hills' group md Dee Ward says the UK market still has much potential. "It is dominated by the major brands, but we only need to look to the Continent to see there is still significant room for growth in the UK. "We drink about a tenth of the amount of bottled water they do in France and Italy. There is a trend away from sugary soft drinks towards more healthy products so this is an important growth factor for us." Chiltern Hills, ranked seventh in the UK bottled water market, is introducing a new label design and its first on-pack promotion this summer. Sparkling water firm Perrier Vittel claims Perrier has the highest public awareness of any brand in the sector. It is launching Perrier Tennis bottles with a 75cl Tri-pack promotion offering consumers the chance to win a day at the Wimbledon Championships. Perrier's still water Vittel, the most popular format for which is the 50cl bottle, has introduced a new label with a vertical logo. And Perrier's Buxton brand is being produced in a new 1.5 litre bottle with a six-for-four promotion. Says Nikita Droin, md of Perrier Vittel UK: "We are consuming nearly 1,000 million litres of bottled water a year and consumption has risen from 3 litres per person in 1988 to nearly 13 litres now. Still mineral water now accounts for 65% of total consumption because there are so many opportunities to use it ­ as a drink, to dilute fruit concentrates, to make tea or coffee, to prepare baby foods, and of course some people cook with a still water." Highland Spring's marketing director Liz Breckenridge says people now like to take a bottle of water with them to the office or gym. "Smaller pack sizes are more convenient, easier to carry and, from the retailers' point of view, offer excellent margins." The brand is teaming up with McVitie's Go Ahead! with its 1.5 litre bottles featuring instantly redeemable coupons worth 15p off Go Ahead! chips, crisps and bakes. Ballygowan also points to the growing potential of flavoured waters. Says Karen Coyle: "Flavoured water has been around for a long time. Initially fruit essence was used to flavour it ­ it tasted like water but smelt like fruit and never really got much public support. "Then in the last three to four years bottled water has started adding sweetened flavours and seems to be getting a lot of customer support." {{FOCUS SPECIALS }}