Ethical brands - which donate a portion of sales or profits to alleviate water shortages in the developing world - more than doubled their volume share in 2007, according to the 17th annual UK bottled water report from specialist consultancy Zenith International.
Paul Martin, managing director of Waterbrands, the company behind Thirsty Planet bottled water, explains: "Increased environmental and ethical awareness is making shoppers more discerning when it comes to which brands of water they buy. Previously, they would make their choices based largely on price, but now the thought that they can make a difference to the world simply by buying certain brands over others is very appealing."
Thirsty Planet is now the leading charity water in the UK, taking a 65% volume share of the category (Nielsen Scantrack, 27/10/07). It aims to bring clean water to 10 million people in Africa by 2015, by making a donation to the charity Pump Aid with every sale.
High profile celebritiy backing has been a huge aid to sales. For example, the One Water brand enjoyed a surge in sales last month after American actress Mischa Barton and former Casualty star Claire Goose, urged Brits to 'Switch for Africa' by dumping their usual bottled water in favour of One Water. All One Water's profits go towards providing clean drinking water for African villages and schools.
"In 2007 the UK public generously donated £9.5 billion to charity, which is fantastic. However, in the face of an economic slowdown it's inevitable that charitable giving will slow down too. One Water enables the public to make a huge difference to those less fortunate without having to donate a penny," Goose says.
Danone Waters has also recently announced that the marketing campaign for Volvic's 1 litre for 10 litre (1L-for-10L) charity promotion will be backed by Hollywood movie star Thandie Newton. For every litre of Volvic water purchased in the UK, the company will provide 10 litres of water to Africa in partnership with international relief and development charity World Vision.
The British actress has visited the site of an existing World Vision well in Mali, where she witnessed the difference a well can make to a community. A substantial marketing campaign is planned to promote the charity initiative on branded packs of Volvic Plain and Volvic Touch of Fruit until September 2008, featuring interviews with Thandie, villagers and World Vision.
Meanwhile, the Co-operative Group, which launched an own-label ethical water in September 2007, has introduced an online pledge form to encourage customers to help transform lives in Africa.
The form allows customers to make a promise to always choose ethical mineral water over standard mineral water when shopping at The Co-op. Every time a customer buys a bottle or multi-pack of Fairbourne Springs Mineral Water, the retailer automatically makes a donation to the One Foundation, the charitable division of One Water, to fund the unique PlayPump water systems. Since the launch of Fairbourne Springs, The
Co-op has raised more than £200,000 for the One Foundation, enough to fund 26 PlayPump systems.
Bottled water hasn't just been having a positive effect abroad. New water brand Pure Blue Water, bottled at source in Cornwall, is donating at least 10% of its profits each year to keep Britain's oceans, seas and coastlines fit for life. Meanwhile, flood relief figures show that bottled water companies provided 55 million litres to assist households affected by a lack of clean water during last year's devastating floods.