Christmas may be the time when people want to let their hair down and make merry, but a combination of drivers and health-conscious consumers makes it a key time for the water category as consumers opt for a refreshing alternative to a boozy yuletide.
Changes in consumer attitudes and behaviour have helped bottled water sales boom over the past five years. Paul Martin, managing director of Waterbrands, urges convenience retailers to take full advantage by stocking up this Christmas, and is expecting strong sales for his company's Harrogate Spa Water and Thirsty Planet brands.
He says: "With designated drivers now an established part of the culture and more and more people trying to moderate their festive excesses for health reasons, bottled water is reaping the benefits."
And the boom doesn't stop on Boxing Day. Sales are expected to continue growing well into the new year as consumers aim for a healthy start to 2008.
Health concerns have been the major driving force for sales of bottled water over the year. Small on-the-move bottled products continue to dominate the impulse sector as a result, with a 50% share, compared with 23% for multiple grocers. Sports cap bottles also experienced a surge in popularity, commanding a 27% share of the impulse market, compared with just 9% in the multiple grocers (AC Nielsen, May 2007).
Much of the major players' marketing activity for 2007 has centred around the importance of drinking water for efficient hydration and heightened physical and mental performance.
Britvic invested £2.4m in a campaign for Drench with the strapline "Your brain is 75% water - keep it topped up, stay drenched".
Princes' Aqua-Pura signed a three-year contract with UK Athletics in March. The brand, which recently added a sports-cap bottle, was also named as the official bottled water of the Great Run series.
Highland Spring also became the exclusive drinks sponsor to tennis aces Andy and Jamie Murray this summer, and Danone Waters pursued its volcanisity campaign for Volvic and launched new water-based energy drink Volvic Revive.
Vittel Natural Mineral Water also relaunched in the spring following a major brand overhaul.
While all parties agree that the health-enhancing benefits of water will continue to be a key consumption driver in 2008, most expect to see a change of marketing tack from manufacturers in which PR activity and new product development is likely to centre around ethical and environmentally friendly credentials.
Global Ethics has already found success with One, which was established in 2005 and donates all its net profit to fund water pumps in African villages. Year-on-year sales of One are up 145%.
Waterbrands launched Thirsty Planet, a charity brand that raises money for clean water projects in Africa in March. So far, sales have paid for more than 1,000 pumps in villages in Zimbabwe and Malawi.
Ethical brand Frank donates all its net profits to sustainable clean-water projects in Andhra Pradesh in India, as does Belu.
Manufacturers are also likely to start promoting the provenance and history of their brands as consumer awareness of provenance and a demand for more locally produced lines grows.
Evian, Highland Spring and Buxton have all been busy tapping into this trend. Evian relaunched with a vibrant pink livery and mountain visuals earlier in the year to better highlight the brand's 15 years filtration through the Alps. Buxton also unveiled a new look to better reflect its "natural purity", while a Highland Spring ad emphasised the company's role as a guardian of the 2,000 acres of land from which the water is drawn.