Bottled water sales dropped by 9%, bringing the value of the market down to £417m. Market leaders Evian and Volvic sustained losses of 7% and 13% respectively, but these paled in comparison to Vittel's 55% decline in sales. Buxton saw an increase of 3%, representing one of the few brand success stories within the bottled water category.
Weather at work
It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that there is a direct correlation between water sales and the weather. "Statistics show that the three months from June to August account for 35% of annual water sales as the hotter temperatures increase consumer demand for chilled water," says Danone Waters external communications director Trevor Datson.
"A change in temperature can trigger a noticeable affect on water sales. In terms of sales for immediate consumption, if the temperature rises to 25ºC, retailers will see a 71% increase in sales and if the temperature rises to 30ºC, water sales will increase by 118%, making it imperative to be fully prepared with the water chiller correctly merchandised for the hot summer months," he adds.
"The main reason for consumers choosing bottled water over any other type of drink in the hot summer months is that bottled water is more effective at quenching thirst than juice or a carbonated drink. Another reason why bottled water scores over tap water is convenience - it offers the perfect solution for consumers who are out and about."
However, when the sun doesn't come out to play, it's a different story. Rebecca White, head of marketing at Nestlé Waters, claims that the climate can have a devastating effect on water sales. "Weather has a huge impact on the sales of not only bottled water, but also all soft drinks generally," she says. "The poor summers of 2007 and 2008 impacted on the category and have resulted in sales of bottled water falling to below levels of 2006 when temperatures soared."
But, unwilling to be ruled by the weather, bottled water manufacturers have banded together to create the National Hydration Council. The group, whose members include Danone Waters UK & Ireland, Highland Spring and Nestlé Waters, formed in September 2008 in a bid to foster positive awareness of the bottled water category by providing information on waters' health and environmental benefits.
In addition, manufacturers are also working hard individually to build on bottled water's profile.
"Water is one of the perfect drinks for people looking to lead a healthier lifestyle as it contains none of the calories, preservatives or additives of sugary drinks - it has zero calories, zero additives and a maximum hydration effect," says White.
She maintains that retailers can capitalise on the trend towards healthy living if the benefits of water continue to be highlighted. "We believe that water is the healthiest drink you can buy and our aim is to concentrate on encouraging customers to switch from soft drinks to water for optimum healthy hydration.
"What's more, the Department of Health's Change4Life campaign, backed by mass TV and print advertising, is encouraging the public to make small changes to their lifestyle to improve their health. This is expected to have a huge impact on consumers' soft drinks choices as they advocate consuming more water, which is positioned as the healthier alternative to sugary drinks."
In an effort to cash in on the move towards healthy living, water manufacturers are getting involved with health and sporting initiatives to enhance the link between being active and hydration.
Evian will be the official bottled water of the Wimbledon Tennis Championships until 2012, and as part of the launch for Schweppes Abbey Well, Coca-Cola Great Britain is offering a free swim in one of 350 pools across the UK.
Buxton, one of the few water brands to do well in 2008, will be hoping to build on sales thanks to its continued sponsorship of the England cricket team. With the Npower Ashes Series starting in July, the brand looks like it will be in the public eye over the summer months.
Nestlé Waters also supported a major sports event recently to ensure its brands were firmly associated with healthy living. The company's Vittel mineral water hydrated about 35,000 runners as official water supplier to the London Marathon.
Nestlé Waters also highlighted Vittel's environmental values at the London Marathon by delivering the water in zero-emission vehicles. "Putting thousands of bottles of Vittel into the hands of thirsty runners and in front of 500,000 spectators created great awareness for the brand, but it was vital that we respected the environment at the same time," says White.
"That's why we committed to working with the Marathon organisers to help clear up after the race and recycle all the used bottles. We also provided caps to all race volunteers made from 100% recycled bottles."
Consumers are becoming increasingly knowledgeable about environmental issues, notes Paul Martin, managing director of Waterbrands, which manufactures Thirsty Planet water. "We work hard to ensure our carbon footprint is as low as possible without compromising quality or customer service," he says.
Danone Waters has also made the environment a top priority. Last October the manufacturer of Evian and Volvic announced that carbon neutral status for both these brands by 2011 was part of its long-term sustainability policy. The company is using recycled PET in its Evian and Volvic bottles.
With so many health and environmental initiatives causing a splash, let's hope consumers' positive perceptions of bottled water will help to brighten up the bottled water market, whatever the weather.
Highland Spring has unveiled new-look packaging on its entire range. The new design features a watercolour Highland Spring tartan sash against a natural background to reflect the purity of the product.
tel: 01764 660500
Coca-Cola Great Britain has launched Schweppes Abbey Well waters. The range features a 500ml bottle in both still and sparkling variants, and a 750ml still sports cap bottle. The launch is being supported by outdoor and radio ads.
tel: 0845 7227111
Do the twist
Strathmore Twist is a new range of flavoured still and sparkling water variants. The drink comes in 330ml, 500ml and 1.5ltr sizes. Flavours include lemon & lime, blackberry & strawberry and cranberry & raspberry.
tel: 01236 852400
Antrim Hills Spring Water has launched Water Within and Drip & Drop, two new ranges designed for the mainstream and children's market respectively. Drip & Drop will be available in a 250ml bottle suitable for school lunchboxes.
tel: 02893 322325
Volvic natural mineral water is back on TV screens after two years with a campaign encouraging people to drink 1.5 litres of Volvic a day for a fortnight. The Volvic 14 Day Challenge aims to make consumers' minds sharper and bodies healthier.
tel: 020 8799 5800
"I've definitely noticed a drop in sales of bottled water over the past year. I've also seen a lot more brands coming on to the market in recent months, which have taken sales away from older brands.
"Sales of bottled water really depend on the weather. If we have a good summer then they'll be strong, but if not then they'll be poor. Last summer wasn't great and as a result sales of bottled water were down."
Trevor Parkes, Parkes News and Toys, Dorset
After a strong 2006, the water-plus
sub-category fell again in 2008 with value sales dropping 8% to £149m. The sub-category is made up of flavoured water, which accounts for 96% of water-plus, and water with functional ingredients, which makes up the remaining 4%.
Flavoured water had a poor 2008 with a 5% drop in sales. Sub-category leader Volvic Touch of Fruit suffered a 9% decline in sales, while Robinsons Fruit Shoot H20 was down 4%. Despite Touch of Fruit's decline, it still accounts for 50% of the flavoured water market with sales of £45m. Some of the newcomers bucked the trends with This Water, which was launched in May 2007, showing a 200% growth in sales.
The water with functional ingredients sub-category had a 42% drop in value in 2008, although the market did see some new entries that didn't do too badly. V Water, which is now distributed by Britvic, had a 226% rise in sales and CCE's Glacéau Vitamin Water achieved sales of £326,000, despite only being on sale since May of 2008.
The sub-category's recent decline was driven by Volvic Revive, which lost half of its sales in 2008. However, the product is still the segment leader with sales of £3.6m over the course of the 12-month period.