You can't open a newspaper without a story about the water shortage, but there's no shortage of fans for bottled waters. That's why bottled water sales rose 5.3% last year to reach almost £1.6bn, according to Zenith International's 15th annual UK bottled water report.
Zenith research director Gary Roethenbaugh comments: "The merits of proper hydration and the benefits of bottled water to health and wellbeing, especially in the face of increasing concerns about obesity, continue to gain recognition among consumers.
"Despite phenomenal growth over the past two decades, more consumers are turning to bottled water as their favoured soft drink."
Indeed, figures from consumer research company BMRB International's TGI survey reveal that the percentage of people aged 15 and above drinking bottled water has grown from 35% in 2000 to 55% in 2005. There's also evidence that more men are now drinking bottled water. And, according to Zenith, water sales will continue to rise - from 2,170 million litres last year to an estimated 3,000 million litres by 2010.
This is all good news for c-stores, which are lapping up the sales. According to the Britvic soft drinks category report 2006, water sales through the take-home channel were up 9% last year to £580m. Within that, the total impulse category (independents, Co-ops and symbol stores, multiple forecourts, other impulse multiples and multiple off licences) accounted for 12% of water sales, worth some £199m, up 13% on the previous year. In independent stores alone, sales were worth £76m.
When it comes to brands, Highland Spring is one to watch as it is the fastest growing top-five bottled water brand in the UK. According to Zenith International, it grew by 12.2% last year, compared with market growth of 5.3%. It is the number one sparkling water and in still, it is number three behind Volvic and Evian.
A new national TV advertising campaign will promote Highland Spring's organic credentials for the first time (it is the only British brand of natural mineral water with accreditation from the Soil Association). On air until mid-June, the commercial is part of an £11m brand support campaign which also includes seven new press ads and the 'Scotland Underground' campaign on the London Underground.
Meanwhile, Nestlé Waters is trying to encourage consumers to drink more water with a new Buxton 1ltr sports cap bottle. It has an 'easy open' thumb-up sports cap which can be opened one-handed, and the bottle is said to be the ideal shape for gripping while on the go.
One of the biggest trends experienced by Harrogate Spa Water over the past 12 months was the uplift in sales of its multipacks, which is why it is now launching pricemarked packs for the convenience channel. This means 8x500ml and 6x1.5ltr packs will be available throughout the summer for a fixed price of £1.89 and £2.29 respectively. The price is prominently flashed on the outside of the pack for on-shelf impact.
Harrogate Spa Water managing director Paul Martin explains the move: "A growing number of consumers are choosing to buy bottled water in bulk to satisfy increased consumption requirements as part of a healthier lifestyle. The pricemarked packs provide an excellent opportunity for retailers to capitalise on this trend and drive sales by stimulating trial of Harrogate Spa Water."
Of course, we all know we're meant to drink eight glasses of water a day but sometimes that can be too much to stomach. For consumers who have difficulty drinking plain old water there's a solution - flavoured water.
One of the newest on the market is Strathmore Select, a premium range of sparkling flavoured waters from the Strathmore Mineral Water Co. There are three exotic flavour combinations: orange, mandarin & lemongrass; white grape & lychee; and apple, jasmine & camomile.
The drinks come in 1ltr glass bottles, contain no added sugar and have less than one calorie per 100ml. Rrp is £1.49.
Radnor Hills' Aqua Splash fruit-flavoured water has recently been relaunched with a new label and stylish packaging. The product combines Welsh mineral water and natural fruit flavourings.
There are six flavours in the 330ml format and five in the 500ml. Rrps are 39p and 79p respectively. There is also a new 1.5ltr twin-pack containing orange & mandarin and lemon flavours. Rrp is £1.69.
Flavoured waters are a good way to get kids to drink more water, too. According to IRI Infoscan data (MAT January 28, 2006), the flavoured waters market was worth £153m last year and is showing 7.4% volume growth year on year. In addition, flavoured kids water is showing a massive 77% value growth, and Nestlé Waters reckons the kids' water category will be worth £14m by the end of this year.
Buxton has just launched two new flavoured waters: strawberry splash and lemon wave. Kid appeal is gained by the use of the Billy Buxton cartoon character on packs, a 250ml easy-grip size, and a panel on the label where kids can write their names.
Cartoon characters might persuade youngsters to drink water but what about more streetwise teenagers? Well, Britvic reckons it has the answer in its recently launched Drench. Category director Andrew Marsden says Drench is now established as a credible water brand for young urban adults, with more than one million litres sold since its January launch. To cement its credibility, Drench was advertised in a 48-sheet poster campaign across London, Leeds, Birmingham, Sheffield and Manchester. Original bus shelter wraps and banners created by urban artist Johnny Voss were used.
The urban theme continues with the launch of the Drench Art Prize, which is searching for new urban artists and illustrators. It will be heavily promoted to art students and young adults, encouraging them to draw on the urban environment for artistic inspiration.
Marsden says the initiative positions Drench as the 100% spring water for mobile, urban youth, identifying its drinkers as "true urbanites".
Drench is available in 500ml and 750ml bottles and features a valved cap which is apparently unique to the water category and makes it perfect for throwing into a bag or carrying while on-the-go.
In today's market there really is a water drink for everyone - flavoured, sparkling, still, in 50cl on-the-go bottles or take-home multipacks. All you've got to do is make more room in your chillers and on your shelves!

Win with water

Buxton is once again the official mineral water for the Wimbledon Tennis Championship, and to coincide with the link-up there's an on-pack campaign on 50cl bottles that gives consumers the chance to 'Serve for £1m'.
The 50cl format is a big seller. According to
IRI value data, 52 weeks MAT February 25, 2006, it accounts for 46% of all bottled water sales in independents.
The promotion requires consumers to 'text to win' and the first entry drawn will be invited to Wimbledon to serve into a target while adhering to the normal rules of singles tennis. If the shot is successful, the winner will receive £1m. Fifty runners up will get Wimbledon kit comprising a tennis racket, sports bag and towel.
Text to win competitions are increasingly popular, but while some brands communicate direct to the consumers, others are busy building reputations with retailers. Brecon Carreg natural mineral water is running a 'Txt 2 Win' competition that gives wholesale customers the chance to win a Mercedes Vito van worth £12,000. A further £70,000-worth of prizes - including Ferrari driving experiences and mountain bikes - are up for grabs.