Manufacturers are predicting further growth for an already buoyant bottled water category, as Rich Airey reveals

With summer arriving early for many parts of the UK, the UK's love affair with bottled water looks set to continue in 2007. Last year the category enjoyed double-digit growth (11%) in 2006 and achieved £643m-worth of sales in the off trade, according to Britvic's soft drinks report.
And despite the ultimate health drink's current rate of growth, manufacturers are confident sales will continue to increase as UK consumers play catch up with their neighbours on the continent.
"There aren't many categories that can expect further growth after so many years of double-digit growth," says Danone Waters category strategy manager Steve Flanagan. "A third of soft drinks market growth is predicted to come from bottled water over the next five years."
Danone's Evian and Volvic brands have continued to enjoy positive sales and hold a 15.7% and 13.1% share of the market. The Volvic Touch of Fruit brand continues to dominate the still flavoured market, with a 35% share of the £165m sub category (AC Nielsen).
Now available in both original and sugar-free variants, Touch of Fruits will benefit from an overall £7m marketing spend on the Volvic brand. A new TV ad featuring animated characters Mr Volcano and Tyrannosaurus Alan has just hit screens and will run in 2007.
Flanagan added: "Recent research shows that while 58% prefer sweeteners, 42% prefer sugar, so there's not a one-size-fits-all solution with regards to flavoured water. With the category growing at 25% year on year, independent retailers stocking the two variants will enjoy the results of the additional growth the category will experience."
Danone is also pumping money behind its Evian brand in 2007, which will be packaged in a brighter pink bottle for improved shelf standout. "Our £3m marketing campaign will bring Evian to the front of consumers' minds at the start of the peak season for water sales," says Flanagan. "The packaging
relaunch will help with category signage."
Nestlé Waters is also revamping its Buxton brand with new packaging. Senior brand manager Alice Costes says: "There's definitely room for further growth in the category. Water has a 20% share of impulse soft drinks sales and is the second fastest growing sector. Market analysts expect category growth to continue at 7% year on year as the trend for health and wellness continues."
Buxton products will also feature an on-pack competition to win more than £1.2m - the total prize money available to the champions at this year's Wimbledon Championships.
Costes recommends retailers stock up ahead of the hotter summer months and adds: "Sales of bottled water are strongly connected with the weather and can reach an uplift of more than 50% during the summer months. Retailers should be expecting to see a smaller turnover of carbonated drink stock and possible out-of-stocks of water and missed purchases as the demand changes. As a result they should increase facings of water, especially for the summer."
The profile of Nestlé's Vittel brand was also given a boost recently with the brand's sponsorship of the Flora London Marathon, during which more than 30,000 bottles of water were handed out to competitors.
Elsewhere in the category, Highland Spring sales will have been boosted by an on-pack competition in support of Glasgow's 2014 Commonwealth Games bid and a new ad campaign for 2007 emphasising the brand's organic status.

A lot of bottle

More than 1.3bn litres of bottled water were drunk in the UK in 2006
The per capita consumption of bottled water in the UK still lags behind other countries, including the US which consumes about double the volume per person
The three months from June to August typically account for about 35% of water unit sales for the year
If the temperature rises from 14°C to 25°C, retailers could see a 75% increase in sales. If the temperature rises to 30°C, water sales typically increase by 125%.
Danone Waters/AC Nielsen