kinvara carey

As obesity continues to hit the headlines, manufacturers and supermarkets continue to seek alternatives to food and drink products high in sugar and fat. Curiously, the most simple, pure and unprocessed drink on the shelf is not always seen as part of the solution.

Water is essential for life. Good hydration has been linked to better concentration, mood and cognition. Yet in the UK 60% of the population drinks just one glass or less of water a day [Kantar 2014]. Natural Hydration Council research with Netmums found some children having to manage up to 18 hours without a drink of water. And our 2015 survey of UK GPs found more than one in five GP visits for tiredness often had dehydration as the root cause.

Whether tap, bottled, still or sparkling, water is one of the healthiest ways to hydrate. So what can we do to encourage this habit?

The Natural Hydration Council was formed in 2008, when hydration was not widely discussed. There was a need for more research and clear communication to help consumers understand the role good hydration can make towards a healthy lifestyle, and to address some of the myths surrounding bottled water. Through the expertise of our science panel, we equipped ourselves with the scientific facts needed to inform the media, healthcare professionals and consumers about the importance of hydration in different life stages (or need states).

The NHC has gone on to work with Netmums, the Children’s Food Trust and the School Food Plan and we’ve seen fantastic results. But all water suppliers, bottled, tap or cooler, need to do more. Positive press coverage on healthy hydration and the role of water has more than doubled since 2009; but that’s nothing compared with the level of negative press coverage about sugar. It’s time that as a nation we stop pointing fingers at single causes for our collective health problems, and look for solutions. As Professor Tom Sanders argued after the draft SACN report was published, surely it’s time to put the jug of water back on our dinner tables.

Children are at greater risk of dehydration. Through our work with the Children’s Food Trust and School Food Plan we have raised awareness among teachers and schools that access to fresh, clean water is fundamental and children should be encouraged to drink water throughout the day. With our Wise up with Water challenge, we helped children view water as a more appealing choice.

We need look no further than the US for an example of a marketing campaign that has changed consumption habits. Drink Up, launched in September 2013 by The Partnership for A Healthier America, is led by Michelle Obama. The campaign unites utility companies, filter companies and bottled water producers, and resulted in a 3%-4% increase in water consumption among target audiences in the first year. We believe this united, collaborative approach is key, and that’s why we’ve invited Drew Nannis, from the Partnership for a Healthier America, to be the keynote speaker at the NHC Conference on 28 October in London.

Kinvara Carey is general manager of the NHC